Little New Hampshire Public Library Takes on Homeland Security over Right to Tor

February 3, 2017

The article on AP titled Browse Free or Die? New Hampshire Library Is at Privacy Fore relates the ongoing battle between The Kilton Public Library of Lebanon, New Hampshire and Homeland Security. This fierce little library was the first in the nation to use Tor, the location and identity scrambling software with a seriously bad rap. It is true, Tor can be used by criminals, and has been used by terrorists. As this battle unfolds in the USA, France is also scrutinizing Tor. But for librarians, the case is simple,

Tor can protect shoppers, victims of domestic violence, whistleblowers, dissidents, undercover agents — and criminals — alike. A recent routine internet search using Tor on one of Kilton’s computers was routed through Ukraine, Germany and the Netherlands. “Libraries are bastions of freedom,” said Shari Steele, executive director of the Tor Project, a nonprofit started in 2004 to promote the use of Tor worldwide. “They are a great natural ally.”… “Kilton’s really committed as a library to the values of intellectual privacy.

To illustrate a history of action by libraries on behalf of patron privacy, the article briefly lists events surrounding the Cold War, the Patriot Act, and the Edward Snowden leak. It is difficult to argue with librarians. For many of us, they were amongst the first authority figures, they are extremely well read, and they are clearly arguing passionately about an issue that few people fully understand. One of the library patrons spoke about how he is comforted by the ability to use Tor for innocent research that might get him flagged by the NSA all the same. Libraries might become the haven of democracy in what has increasingly become a state of constant surveillance. One argument might go along these lines: if we let Homeland Security take over the Internet and give up intellectual freedom, don’t the terrorists win anyway?

Chelsea Kerwin, February 3, 2017


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