Czechs Turning to Tor as Privacy Concerns Increase
According to the Czech News Agency (ČTK), citing Pravo, the number of Czechs using Tor for access to the darknet is steadily increasing. They are not using it for “drugs, arms, or child porn,” for the most part, Pravo published in a late August edition. Czechs are using Tor out of a growing concern for their privacy and internet footprints.
IT expert Ondrej Profant explained that Czechs fear the tracking and tracing of the “traditional internet.” They use Tor and the darknet to avoid leaving a digital footprint. “Facebook, for instance, is monitoring even movements of a mouse,” he said. (This happens everywhere now; a 2011 Microsoft study examined a user’s eye gaze direction on SERPs. They found a practically undetectable method of spotting where users look: a single script, smaller than 1kb, that tracked a user’s mouse cursor.)
That study, while far from the first method of tracking user behavior through unconventional manners, spread major privacy concerns in 2013 when Facebook considered implementing something similar. Facebook was not the first company to do so, nor did news of the surveillance only recently reached the Czech Republic. Profant used it as an example for the most common use of tracking techniques: marketing. He said, though, that the information “may also be interesting for security forces.”
In 2016, the Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD), a daily Czech newspaper, released a figure that represented darknet users in the Czech Republic. According to the paper and data from research firms, roughly 15,000 Czechs accessed the darknet on a daily basis. At that time, researchers believed that Czechs used the darknet for “ordering goods from markets.” The paper wrote that “thousands of Czechs are doing this on a daily basis.”
The darknet, in the 2016 paper, was explained as the place where “one can order weapons, drugs and contract killers.” However, in 2017, so-called “experts” agreed that the darknet functioned as a drug trafficking medium and a method to circumvent state censorship. “In China, for instance, which applies a strong censorship in many areas, the darknet enables access to free information,” one researcher wrote.
The Czech Republic is currently ranked 23 (out of 180) on the World Press Freedom Index. But until 1989, when communist governments of the Warsaw Treaty countries collapsed (1991 for the former Czechoslovakia), citizens faced high levels of censorship. And even though the Communist Czechoslovakia ended years ago, “journalists and activists are using [Tor] to publish something and remain anonymous,” Pavel Ruzicka, a researcher in this sector, told the newspaper.