Anonymity: The Privacy Paradox
We always hear about the importance of privacy online, and protecting oneself from things like identity theft. That’s all good and well, but what if I told you that there was an inevitable breeding ground for a wide range of criminal activity, including (but not limited to) hackers, human traffickers, drug deals, weapons sales, underground fights, assassins for hire, and disturbingly enough, child pornography. What if I told you all of these transactions took place using a digital decentralized currency known as bit coin? Sounds like some sort of dystopian sci fi novel eh? Well, all of this is very real. But where does it all take place exactly?
All of this takes place within what is known as the “deep web”. The World Wide Web as most people know it is referred to as surface web, while the vast majority of the actual internet lies within the deep web. Most of the deep web is raw data. Web pages within the deep web are not indexed by your standard search engines like Google, and often require passwords to access certain pages. NASA reportedly has a lot of data accessible via the deep web.
You may be asking, "How does one access the deep web?" Well, from my understanding it’s much simpler than what most people may think. The most common method is to use what is called a Tor browser which is software available for free download at torproject.org. It is conveniently available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and even smartphones (granted your phone has been rooted). Tor in a sense aids to mask your IP address via a volunteer network of servers. This software was initially created for communications within the Navy. From there, you need the right links, often times using the suffix “.onion”, hence Tor’s logo.
So, we know the deep web contains an incomprehensible amount of data which most common folk don’t have access to, well… you could, but it is a very risky place of business should one choose to go that route, and I would highly not advise it, unless you want to risk a rude awakening from the FBI. Along with every deviant anti-social psycho path lurking within this foreign virtual landscape, there are also scientists, free speech and information enthusiasts, and potential political revolutionaries… or terrorists, depending on your context.
The “Silk Road” is probably the most widely talked about website contained within the deep web. It is basically an EBay for junkies. As mentioned earlier, you can even hire hit men. Scared yet? It is the digital black market. Of course, with all this criminal activity, there are government agents out to catch the bad guys, even vigilantes busting child porn rings. It is the wild west of the future.
Do these criminals abuse their privacy? Is it an inevitable symptom of any society? Should they be dealt with or ignored? Weather you take the blue pill, or the red pill, one thing is for certain: “Where there is a will, there is a way.” Who wins? Good or evil? In any case, looks like technology triumphs all.