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As we learn more about the extent of the NSA’s monitoring of our digital lives, we want to take a look at one part of the internet where people are completely anonymous.
It’s called the “deep web.” You need special software to get there and what you do there is essentially untraceable.
But as Time magazine’s Lev Grossman reports, some officials now believe the deep web has become an “electronic haven for thieves, child pornographers, human traffickers, forgers, assassins and peddlers of state secrets and loose nukes.”
On the origins of the deep web
“The real irony of this story, is this thing was built by the US government, in particular, the US Naval research laboratory. They worked out the theory in the 90’s and then launched it in 2003, and they had very good reasons for doing it. The deep web is a vital tool for intelligence agents, law enforcement, political dissidents in foreign countries with oppressive governments are trained in it by the state department.”
On the software needed to access the deep web
“Search engines like Google and Bing, you know, they use Spiders and other kinds of software to crawl the web, as it were. But you can only see web sites like the Silk Road if you’re working through Tor. Tor actually does two things: It keeps you anonymous, but it also allows you to see this whole range of web sites that would otherwise be invisible to you. Google doesn’t work with Tor; Bing doesn’t work with Tor. They only are interested in the conventional web. So this stuff just stays off the grid.”
On striking a balance between privacy and accountability
“If people know who you are online, then you’re responsible for what you do there, and whatever you do has consequences. That’s on the one hand. And we’re trying to balance that with the need for privacy, the need for people to keep their personal information off the net and out of the public eye, because there are things that people deserve to keep private, and technologies like Tor can do that. Unfortunately, technologies like Tor are also subject to abuse. And as it turns out, owing to various basic flaws in human nature, when people enter a situation where they can do things and not be held accountable for them, they tend to do some very bad things indeed.”