The Onion Router or “Tor” Network is a free web browser that allows for seemingly anonymous communication across the web. It does this by directing one’s traffic through numerous relays (nodes) all over the world, making it difficult to pinpoint the original user. Originally developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and DARPA to protect U.S. intelligence communications, the Tor browser allows access to the “deep web” which often serves as a black market for all sorts of illegal activity, such as drug trafficking, arms dealing and child pornography.
Perhaps ironically, The Tor Project continues to receive the majority of its funding from the U.S. government and other large federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation. This begs the question of Tor’s real purpose. Is it truly an avenue for “aiding democracy in authoritarian states” or is it just another form of government surveillance?
The answer to this question may lie in the network itself. To understand The Onion Router on a deeper level, we can begin by viewing real time maps of the Tor Networkand eventually mapping the exit nodes.