Facebook has announced an enhanced privacy feature for users of its Android app to let them browse the social network using Tor.
The company said that the move is designed to strengthen support for the "sizeable community" that has developed since Tor-based support for PCs was introduced in 2014. The feature is set to roll out to Android users over the next week.
"We commonly receive requests for additional platform support beyond the browser," Facebook said.
"Thanks to a project initiated by a summer intern at Facebook and subsequently picked up by our Protect and Care team in London, we are now offering experimental support for using Facebook over Tor via the Orbot proxy app for Android devices.
"This change increases the security of Tor connections to Facebook by eliminating steps that required traffic to travel beyond the cryptographic assurances provided by the Tor network."
The Orbot proxy application lets Android users access websites, instant messaging and email accounts without being monitored or tracked by their service provider. It is available now via Google Play.
To get started, users will have to download Orbot to connect to Tor and then update their app settings using a standard preference switch.
Kate Krauss, a spokeswoman for the Tor Project, told The Guardian that the move by Facebook would help ensure even more people can use the service privately, something that for some would prove 'lifesaving'.
"Everybody in the world needs more privacy online and almost everybody is on Facebook. This will allow people to choose whether to share their location or not. For some people, this is convenience. For others, it is lifesaving," she said.
Tor works by hiding the IP address of a device and is frequently used by people living under repressive regimes to communicate or access the internet. The service has grown in popularity since the Edward Snowden disclosures in 2013.
Tor was initially funded by the US government as a secure communications platform but has transformed into a popular tool for whistleblowers and civil rights activists.
However, it has frequently come under fire from intelligence agencies, which claim that the network is used for organised crime and terrorism.
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