France Considers Banning Tor And Public Wi-Fi Following The Paris Attacks – France is still in a state of emergency following the November terrorist attacks that put the country into lockdown and caused an outpouring of grief across the world.
The attacks were proof that large scale acts of violence can happen in any city, at any time. Following the incidents, France has been carefully examining its security practices to attempt to further reduce the likelihood of similar instances occurring in the future.
France Considers Banning Tor and Public Wi-Fi
New laws are in the process of being drafted to address security concerns that France has about its current state of being. These new laws will attempt to stifle terrorist related activity by becoming more proactive and firm about the country’s security. These laws may include banning of the Tor browser and even public Wi-Fi when the country is in a state of emergency.
France has not been in a state of emergency since the 2005 riots that swept the city. Immediately following the 2015 attacks French borders were closed, school services suspended and police given wide-sweeping powers to detain anyone they deemed a likely threat and raid premises without warrants.
Police so far have detained over 1000 people and have raided more than 2500 properties, at some times for circumstances that are questionable to be related to terror threats. The state of emergency law, founded in 1955, is likely to be seen as unconstitutional if they are challenged in court. This has prompted the government to propose changing the constitution to write the laws into it.
Another proposed constitutional change is the right to rescind French citizenship of dual nationals that are convicted of crimes against the best interests of France.
Although these proposed changes are likely of concern to many, other proposed law changes are likely more worrying to the average person on the street. The personal freedoms that most of us take for granted may be interloped on to make way for a supposedly more secure environment.
In pages submitted to the government by the French police force, police have strongly recommended the ban of the Tor browser, along with a ban on shared Wi-Fi services in the event of emergencies.
Tor is the Internet browser used to hide one’s identity online and access special .onion (as opposed to .com, .org, etc.) sites also known as the deep web sites. Tor is used by people around the world both for good and evil purposes. The Tor browser can offer protection for those suffering from persecution in their own oppressive regimes, government whistleblowers, journalists and those wishing not to be monitored. Tor can also provide a cloak of anonymity for criminals and those wishing to coordinate terrorist activities.
The Tor browser operates by providing various different hops that one’s Internet connection is routed through, effectively obscuring your IP address from anyone potentially trying to monitor traffic.
One country that currently bans Tor is China, however due to the nature of the service (anyone can set up a Tor router) it is not known how effective the ban is. Proposed changes by the French police would consider making downloading the Tor browser illegal, and cutting connections to any known Tor routers in the country.
Considering that many Chinese are still able to use Tor, it is unknown how effective a blanket ban of citizens using Tor would be.
During states of emergency this networking ban would be extended to free, public and shared Wi-Fi connections. Free and public Wi-Fi signals are often used by criminals to avoid being traced back to a particular Internet connection. This seems an unlikely scenario to be implemented, considering that leaving survivors of potential disasters without an Internet service may be inherently dangerous.
New security laws that are being drawn up presently, which may or may not contain these proposals from law enforcement, will be written into legislation as early as January of 2016. This doesn’t leave a lot of time for debate on the matter.
France has a lot to consider in the wake of the November 2015 attacks on their country. Many of the purported changes to law seem to fly in the face of certain personal freedoms that have long been a symbol of France’s spirit. Whether or not the changes go through, it is interesting to see such a change in thinking from both its leaders and its people. Together they must remain strong in the face of adversity, however it would be a shame to see the country transform into a more oppressive system without clear indications that it would make for a better society.