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LEBANON, NH – The Tor relay that allows anonymous Internet surfing is scheduled to be turned back on Wednesday morning at the Kilton Public Library after a temporary hiatus caused by an email from the Department of Homeland Security.
The library board of trustees in Lebanon decided Tuesday night a vote wasn’t necessary, but all agreed at a meeting to turn Tor back on. Kilton was the first public library in the nation to participate in the Library Freedom Project hosting Tor.
“The trustees are continuing to work with the Library Freedom Project and Tor will be turned back on tomorrow,” Sean Fleming, the director of Lebanon Public Libraries, said Tuesday after the meeting.
Tor has not yet been installed on computers used by the public at the library, but will most likely be in the future, he said.
Instead, at Kilton the library participates by hosting a middle relay for users all over the world who want to conceal their identity and location. Kilton’s IP address never currently shows up.
That will change because the library is planning to become an exit relay, which would strength the network and complicate matters as well.
As an exit relay, the IP address would show up and there could be attempts to hold the library accountable for illegal acts by Tor users, Fleming said.
That is why the program is recruiting public libraries because they have levels of legal protection that individuals wouldn’t have, Fleming said.
Tor was temporarily turned off after the Department of Homeland Security contacted Portsmouth police who contacted Lebanon officials.
There originally had been concern by police and a city official that it could be used for criminal activity, he said.
At the meeting, one woman on the library staff spoke of the importance of Internet anonymity by sharing her experiences with kidnappings in her native Colombia.
ProPublica previously reported that Tor is used in repressive regimes and is considered a crucial tool for freedom of expression and counts the State Department among its top donors.
“But Tor has been a thorn in the side of law enforcement; National Security Agency documents made public by (Edward) Snowden have revealed the agency’s frustration that it could only identify a ‘very small fraction’ of Tor users,” Julia Angwin reported for ProPublica.
ProPublica quoted a DHS spokesman as saying that using Tor is not illegal and there are legitimate purposes for its use, adding the Homeland Security Investigations will pursue people who use the technology for illegal activities.
Fleming said people were proud to participate in Lebanon, a town in western New Hampshire south of Hanover and home to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Dartmouth Medical School.
They spoke against surrendering their freedom to the federal government, Fleming said.
“(The meeting) was unanimously in favor of turning it on. There was not a dissenting voice,” Fleming said.
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