Will Knight

A View from Will Knight

Anonymizing Android Devices

Tor–a networking scheme that hides users’ online activities–is going mobile.

  • September 16, 2009

A good way for political dissidents (and anyone else) to hide their online activities is going mobile.

The Tor networking protocol hides users’ activities by relaying requests for information through a random selection of nodes (made up of other Tor users) until it’s near impossible to tell who originally made the request. Now Connell Gauld, an engineering student at Cambridge University in the UK has created a version of Tor for Android-powered mobile devices.

As this recent TR feature article explains, Tor can help those living under oppressive regimes find information and express their views without fear of persecution or retribution. But it can also help ordinary users protect their privacy.

It’ll be interesting to see how popular the mobile version of Tor is. After all, it’s possible to collect much more personal information via a phone–not just what you’re browsing but were you’re browsing from. Then again, plenty of people are happy to give up their anonymity in return for location-specific search results. And companies are keen to use this information to deliver targeted advertising and local recommendations.

Sandy Pentland, a professor of media arts and sciences at MIT, has pioneered an approach that involves mining the aggregate information from many mobile devices–what he calls “reality mining”. His startup, Sense Networks, is exploring this, but it also anonymizes personal data to protect the privacy of individual users.

Recently, we covered a more controversial idea: building anonymity into the internet itself.

The latest Insider Conversation is live! Listen to the story behind the story.

Subscribe today
Already a Premium subscriber? Log in.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Premium.
  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look: exclusive early access to important stories, before they’re available to anyone else

    Insider Conversations: listen in on in-depth calls between our editors and today’s thought leaders

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.