Google’s open source blog has a post about their contributions, through the Summer of Code program primarily, to the Tor project and much more on why Tor and tools like it are important. Tor is a tool useful for circumventing censorship by layering encryption and routing through relays like the layers of an onion (hence T.O.R. == The Onion Router).
I am glad that Google is supporting development of Tor but I’d be happier still if they would contribute some servers and bandwidth to the network of relays that is key to its operation. The biggest complaint that I have with Tor, a common gripe from its fans and users, is that it is slow as dirt. There simply are never enough relays in the network to make it usable for any but the most critical needs.
If you’ll indulge me, I’d also like to share another petty criticism of this post. It reads as a little self serving to me. More than once it trots out this rhetorical line that runs to the sentiment of: “Tor is useful for dealing with services that don’t respect your privacy, unlike Google who totally respects your privacy and lets you opt-out and stuff.” Don’t get me wrong, the bulk of the post focuses on some very important issues that Tor is tackling and Google supports, I just don’t see the need for Google to emphasize its own non-evilness. Especially in a post where they are supporting such an excellent tool for evading evil intentions.
This post also made me think back to Ethan Zuckerman’s recent post suggesting circumvention alone is not enough to foil censorship. Worth bearing in mind as we read up on the latest news about such tools.