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Comcast Threatening To Disconnect Tor Users?

Is Comcast coming down on customers who use the Tor Browser? That seems to be the case according to a report by DeepDownWeb. The Internet service provider is said to be contacting subscribers who are using the software, stating that if they continue to use said browser, their service will be terminated. Why? Because the company deems Tor as an illegal service.

"Users who try to use anonymity, or cover themselves up on the internet, are usually doing things that aren't so-to-speak legal," one Comcast agent told a customer. "We have the right to terminate, fine, or suspend your account at any time due to you violating the rules."

Ouch. The comment indicates that Comcast may be monitoring the online activities of its customers to determine if they're staying within the Acceptable Use Policy. Under "Technical restrictions," prohibited equipment and servers include file sharing and proxy services and servers. The company already allegedly monitors its Internet lanes to spot downloaders of pirated media and software.

According to another Comcast representative, the company only investigates "the specifics" of an account if a court order is provided. If Comcast is forced to provide customer information, then the company contacts the individual first so that they can hire a lawyer. If they do hire a lawyer, then Comcast hands over the case and moves on.

The Tor Browser connects to the Tor network and allows the user to surf the Internet without leaving any traces. The browser is a great tool for those who want to remain anonymous online, but it can also be used to surf for illegal material including child pornography and drugs. Just like many ISPs cracking down on newsgroup access, ISPs may now be viewing the Tor network in a similar light.

The Tor Browser works by accessing a list of Tor nodes from a directory server. The client then picks a random path via other users to the destination server; direct routes are never used. That means if the Tor Browser user visits another site, a different, random path is chosen. You can read a good explanation on how Tor works here via the Tor Project.

The Tor Browser became highly popular after Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA was spying on Web surfers. Over 2 million people now use the Tor Browser, down from the nearly 6 million users tracked one year ago (September 2013). The drop in usage could be related to new anonymous features found in current Web browsers.

A Comcast representative recently said that the company does not monitor browser usage or Web surfing, nor is the company contacting customers using the Tor Browser. Still, Comcast is now listed as a "Bad ISP" by the Tor Project, meaning that the company is not "friendly" to the Tor Network.

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  • Urzu1000
    I like the option of being anonymous. To be honest though, I use the Tor Browser at work when I need to look at a website (Youtube for example), that's by default blocked on the network. There's nothing malicious about that, and my boss is fine with it.

    I feel that we're at a fine time when anonymity and legality conflict between consumers and corporations. They're all so scared that people can do whatever they want, that they would like the limit the ability of the consumers so that they can better manage them.

    I do not fault them for this, as from their side, this is important. But I don't take their side either. I simply won't use Comcast if they determine the type of browser I can or can't use on my computer.
    Reply
  • ubercake
    Here's the real problem:

    If you surf the web truly anonymously, Comcast can't make money off of your marketing data.

    This is a threat to all cable companies.

    I'm sure Comcast'll get their buddy ol' Tom Wheeler over at the FCC involved if it becomes too much of a profit loss for them.

    Fortunately for Comcast and other cable companies, not too many people even know what the Tor browser is.

    They need to add funtionality to the Tor browser that sends special data to Comcast (so they still think they're getting what they want) while still keeping the person's browsing anonymous.

    There's nothing illegal about anonymity when you're not doing anything illegal.
    Reply
  • bourgeoisdude
    Comcast seems to have a knack for making themselves look bad.
    Reply
  • Devoteicon
    "Users who try to use anonymity, or cover themselves up on the internet, are usually doing things that aren't so-to-speak legal," said one Comcast agent, who wanted to remain anonymous.
    Reply
  • Morbus
    "Users who try to use anonymity, or cover themselves up on the internet, are usually doing things that aren't so-to-speak legal"
    This notion is absolute bollocks.

    Let me put it this way:
    - people who use burner phones are usually criminals.
    - people who wear dark clothes are usually thieves.
    - people who drive cars with tinted windows are usually kidnapers.
    - people who eat tofu are usually rapists.

    Also:
    - people who dye their hair are usually con artists.
    Reply
  • skit75
    They care less about what you are doing and more that they can't funnel advertisers at you or use your browsing history to profit off of you.
    Reply
  • SteelCity1981
    "Users who try to use anonymity, or cover themselves up on the internet, are usually doing things that aren't so-to-speak legal," one Comcast agent told a customer.

    I don't like to be followed around by websites I already visited and having my isp track me and where I go, because I don't like my privacy being intruded. that must mean I must be doing something illegal huh. lets cut the crap Comcast this isn't about you might be doing something illegal. this boils down to the isp's and advertising companies not being able to get info from where you go.
    Reply
  • Cazalan
    Likewise when ever you turn off your webcam you're doing something naughty.

    How Orwellian are we going to allow society to become? The government should just give away free iPhone + iWatch so they can monitor your breathing and heart rate 24/7.
    Reply
  • swiftleeo
    For the people who are doing illegal things, this means nothing. Comcast has a bad reputation for anti-piracy and anti-privacy, thus anyone doing such illegal things with half a brain would get another cable/internet provider if possible. Jeeze you pay them money to use their service and they complain about how you use it.

    It's kind of like paying to get a house built and having the contractor complain about how messy the house is when you're living in it.
    Reply
  • WithoutWeakness
    For the people who are doing illegal things, this means nothing. Comcast has a bad reputation for anti-piracy and anti-privacy, thus anyone doing such illegal things with half a brain would get another cable/internet provider if possible. Jeeze you pay them money to use their service and they complain about how you use it.

    It's kind of like paying to get a house built and having the contractor complain about how messy the house is when you're living in it.
    There are a LOT of places in the US where Comcast is the only option for moderately reliable high-speed internet. In many places your only options are slow dial-up/DSL from a local phone company or Comcast. In some towns and counties Comcast has a contract to be the exclusive internet provider. There are people who would take another viable option in a heartbeat but short of uprooting their families' lives and moving they don't have any other options.
    Reply