David Cameron has vowed to ban crypto if he wins the UK election, but Parliament's lead technical experts have told him that he can't, and shouldn't, mess with Tor and other cryptographic tools.
The POST report explains that Tor and other darknet technologies are a force for good, on balance, citing their use by dissidents in countries like China to get past national firewalls, and putting the stats about darknet sites for child sex abuse images into context. It goes on to discuss the technical challenges intrinsic to banning crypto, highlighting the extent to which basic Internet functionality and the ability to keep secrets from the state are inextricably bound together.
In 2012, U.K. police said the Tor anonymity service was used by "many" pedophiles in order to trade child abuse images. In the same parliamentary briefing, those police have changed their tunes significantly.
Tor "plays only a minor role in the online viewing and distribution of indecent images of children," according to the briefing, quoting Britain's Parliament by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP) of the U.K. National Crime Agency.
They drove home the assertion by saying that while 1,624 domains were found to have child abuse material on the open Web, just 36 were found on the Dark Net—about 2 percent.
"Tor is less popular among offenders because it decreases the speed at which images can be downloaded," according to British police.
The darknet and online anonymity – POST Note [Chandrika Nath and Thomas Kriechbaumer/Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology]
U.K. Parliament says banning Tor is unacceptable and impossible [Patrick Howell O'Neill/Daily Dot]
(Image: Facepalm, Brandon Grasley, CC-BY)