The Italian Anti-Corruption Authority, a national administrative watchdog, has officially launched a national whistleblowing forum using Tor onion services.
This has been seen as a big move by many. It is geared toward encouraging whistleblowers to expose corruption cases, which are on the rise in Italy among other illegal activities.
Globally, Tor onion services are being used to avoid surveillance and censorship every day. Tor provides the security and privacy necessary to help activists to mobilize, journalist to report and ordinary people and whistleblowers to speak out their mind without being tracked by authorities.
Tor as a Tool for Whistleblowing
Over the years, Tor has often been criticized for providing a network for darknet drug dealers and cybercriminals to operate, due to its ability to mask individual logins, transactions, identities and locations on the dark web.
But despite past criticism, there is a recent trend of accepting and embracing Tor globally.
The software encrypts users’ internet traffic through a series of servers called onion routers. Criminals have taken advantage of its anonymity to carry out illegal activities on illicit dark web marketplaces.
Surprisingly, Tor was originally a product developed and implemented by the U.S. government to offer a safe and secure communication platform to transmit classified information. It was later used by private advocates and journalists to safely communicate to whistleblowers. At the same time, the network also draw attention as a spot for illegal activity.
Having considered that, Tor anonymity has proven itself as a tool that could be used for both legitimate and illegitimate purposes.
Ever since prominent whistleblower Edward Snowden made use of Tor to leak classified National Security Agency documents to journalists, there has been a spike in Tor usage for similar purposes—especially associated with whistleblowing submission platforms such as WikiLeaks and SecureDrop.
In countries with an oppressive and restrictive government, Tor anonymity has allowed citizens and activists to speak out boldly against restrictive, unfair and cruel leadership.
Several whistleblowing platforms are built based on the Tor framework. GlobaLeaks, for instance, is essentially a web application running on Tor onion services offering an open-source whistleblowing platform to allow everyone—including activist groups, media outlets and the general public—to maintain the platform.
The GlobaLeaks framework was created and developed initially by a group of Italian activists in 2011 but it was later taken over by Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights. This Tor-based platform allows whistleblowers and journalists to exchange sensitive information anonymously.
Legal Framework of New Whistleblowing Platform
The National Anti-Corruption Authority in Italy must have been influenced by Tor’s history of providing safe whistleblowing services since the agency incorporated the GlobaLeaks programs in its whistleblowing framework with few customizations of its own.
After researching strategies to obtain reports in a way that still maintains users’ privacy, the agency began writing a Tor proposal with its own design, along with a code to implement the proposal. Now, the code is officially compatible with Tor onion services.
Anonymity technology is currently becoming of interest for anti-corruption authorities. A well-known example is the implementation by Xnet in the City Hall of Barcelona in Spain.
Italy’s Law 231/2001 requires firms to incorporate governance structures that trigger the company’s liability in case its leadership and representatives are involved in criminal corruption.
Early last year, the Italian government passed a new national law 179/2017 that requires the Anti-Corruption Authority to adopt IT systems aimed to achieve anonymity for whistleblowers. This would guarantee whistleblowers of their safety after reporting corruption cases.
Complying with the international standards and national law, the Italian Anti-Corruption Authority has now launched an online whistleblowing platform where individuals can come forward and report illegal activities, such as corruption, and still have their identity masked.
Increased Recognition for Tor
In the recent past, there has been an accelerated rate at which media outlets, social media networks and nonprofit organizations are adopting and embracing Tor services. This is after realizing that it is an essential anonymity tool that can be used positively.
The Tor network has recently released a new version of its system with several key upgrades with regards to privacy and security.
And recently, several privacy-related components of Tor’s browser platform are being adopted in the latest versions of Firefox.
With Firefox’s code being the basis of the Tor browser, Mozilla is also expected to start implementing some of the more unique components of the Tor browser such as anti-tracking features.
As time goes by, further advanced integration of Tor services into Firefox could finally contribute to the Tor network becoming more universal among users.
For information on how to use the Tor browser to access hidden sites, click here for our comprehensive guide.
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