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The Computer Corner


By Charles Miller

I can almost always tell when I write on a subject that is of exceptionally broad interest to readers. All I need to do is count the number of email responses I receive, and there were quite a few of those in response to the column several weeks ago describing the “Tor browser.” This should come as no surprise. If you ask 100 people if they think advertisers and governments should respect people’s privacy online, 98 will answer “yes!” and of the other two? One works for Facebook and the other for the NSA.

The Tor browser is a free Internet browser available for download from the Tor Project website at There is a version for Mac and another for Windows. The Tor browser makes it simple for anyone to use the anonymous Tor network with minimal need for any technical expertise or knowledge of encryption protocols.

What is the Tor network? It is most assuredly not the sinister underground network of criminals and hackers that some people mistakenly think it is. The Tor network is a nonprofit organization whose main purpose is the research and development of online privacy tools.

The core principle of Tor was developed in the mid-1990s by the United States Naval Research Laboratory, then in 1997 by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It is the part of the US Department of Defense responsible for the development of emerging technologies. DARPA is where the Internet itself was created, starting in the early 1960s.

Tor was created as a tool to facilitate secure communications by government, military, diplomats, et al. Tor is not able to solve the issue of anonymity on the web completely. It is not capable of completely erasing your tracks. But Tor does reduce the likelihood of anyone being able to trace connections back to the user.

It is unfortunate that Tor has received so much bad press as being a tool of the criminal element, because this technology has so many legitimate uses. Tor became popular with people concerned about cyber-spying as well as users desiring to evade censorship, such as political activists. Journalists use Tor to protect the privacy of their sources. The social workers and agencies that assist victims of domestic violence have learned that Tor can protect users from digital stalking when online. Tor also happens to be the best and easiest to use tool to shield normal people from omnipresent surveillance by advertisers.

So if you are among the millions of Internet users who say that they do not want to be spied upon and do not want advertisers tracking their every move online, there is a simple solution. Point your favorite browser to the Tor Project website where you may download a free Tor Browser for your Mac or PC. This browser does not need to take the place of your computer’s default browser, but you are free to use the Tor browser any time you want to surf more anonymously.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at)


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