Why is GCHQ boss encouraging activists and journalists to use the Tor network?

Mick Meaney

(RINF) – During a speech at MIT, GCHQ chief Robert Hannigan suspiciously praised the Tor network, and encouraged the use of the technology which offers anonymous protection to whistleblowers, hacktivists and journalists.

You might argue that it is strange for an organisation that creates encryption technology specifically used to keep Western governments from snooping on you, to actually receive funding from one of those governments.

For example, in 2013 $1.8m in Tor funding was from the US government and federal funding of Tor has actually increased year-on-year.

Hannigan told the audience:

“Tor is the most topical example: a brilliant invention that is still invaluable to those who need high degrees of anonymity, notably dissidents, human rights advocates and journalists, but an invention that is these days dominated in volume by criminality of one sort or another.

“I am not in favour of banning encryption. Nor am I asking for mandatory backdoors. I am puzzled by the caricatures in the current debate, where almost every attempt to tackle the misuse of encryption by criminals and terrorists is seen as a ‘backdoor’. It is an over-used metaphor, or at least misapplied in many cases, and I think it illustrates the confusion of the ethical debate in what is a highly charged and technically complex area.”