Japanese police are reportedly mulling over proposals that could see internet service providers in the country block access to the Tor network, an anonymous communication system.
According to the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, Japan's National Police Agency wants ISPs to block access to Tor if users are found to have abused it.
The report came following a series of online attacks, where perpetrators used the Tor network to mask their identify. It is unclear from the reports what that abuse would entail – given that users' Tor activities cannot be snooped on, it's difficult to see how police would show abuse. Perhaps using Tor would be enough to constitute abuse.
The police are already expecting a backlash to the proposals. An NPS officer told The Mainichi it would try to assuage ISPs' concerns.
Tor has proven to be an invaluable tool for pro-democracy campaigners in the Middle East while censorious regimes such as the Chinese authorities have attempted to block users from using the system.
But Tor has a darker side too, providing a safe haven for thriving drug markets such as the Silk Road, along with a host of malware and cybercrime forums. Tor - or the onion router - bounces enrypted web traffic through multipe servers, making it impossible for snoopers to see what users are up to.
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