“Anonabox”: One-Stop-Shop for Internet Privacy?

According to The Verge, the “Anonabox” Kickstarter is Trying to be a One-Stop-Shop for Internet Privacy.

So the hacker in me loves the idea of this, but actually I think it’s probably over-kill (and an over-promise) for most people’s web privacy needs.

First of all, if you want to surf the Web through the Tor network you just have to download an install the Tor browser bundle (https://www.torproject.org/download/download – also see this Guardian article from last year: http://gu.com/p/3k569) . This application download actually pairs a heavily customized (with additional anonymity-enhancing features) Firefox browser with the Tor networking software. But even that is overkill for most casual “private browsing.” If you are just trying to search privately (for example, for medical-related topics that you don’t want showing up in your ads the next time you search the web) then the private browsing modes that now come as standard with modern browsers (Chrome calls it “incognito”) are perfectly fine. What these modes don’t protect you from is your network provider (ISP) snooping browsing. Tor does encrypt your network traffic (to the Tor service) but it comes with major downsides such as slowness. Because of the way Tor works, routing your traffic around the Internet until it finally pops out onto the public Net at an “exit node”, your traffic will also appear as if it’s coming from another country than the one you live in. So for example if you live in the UK you will find BBC iPlayer will not work through Tor. Also if you run all your traffic through Tor but don’t use private browsing modes, or Tor’s special browser build, then you are still exposing yourself to tracking through cookies, fingerprinting and other techniques.

But if you do use TorBrowser it also blocks certain technologies such as Flash player, so it’s a trade off.

Basically people need to gauge how much privacy they need in a given situation and employ the right tool for the job. Unfortunately it doesn’t look to me like anyone is working to drive general public awareness of Web privacy these days, which is a shame.

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