San Francisco, November 3, 2014 – The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes Facebook’s move to enable access via a Tor hidden service, which came into effect on Friday. The step protects journalists and other users who are at risk of surveillance, censorship, or online attack.
“Facebook’s decision to enable access via a dedicated Tor hidden service provides journalists with substantial additional protection against network-based attacks,” said CPJ Internet Advocacy Coordinator Geoffrey King. “This bold move is significant not only for its practical effects but also because it challenges the rest of the tech community to demonstrate a commitment to privacy and free expression with similar measures.”
The dedicated hidden service makes it much easier for a journalist using Tor to access Facebook, while making it extremely difficult for attackers to monitor their activities or location or to intercept or block their connections to Facebook. This is a substantial improvement in both safety and usability for journalists who use Facebook to disseminate news, connect with sources, and communicate with colleagues. It also means that journalists using Tor to protect their privacy and that of their sources when connecting to Facebook no longer have to worry about triggering Facebook security alerts which can temporarily lock out users from their accounts.
The move does not prevent Facebook from monitoring the activities of its users as they navigate the site, but unlike normal browsing, access via Tor does not automatically convey to Facebook a user’s physical location.