This session was about how we discuss Tor to our family, friends, and people we train or teach. We organized our notes around several ways of framing the discussion.

What is Tor?

  • One participant's way of explaining it: Whenever I explain it to my friends and family I say Tor is software that anonymizes internet traffic. It's a network of computers all over the world that create a little bubble. Normally when you send information it goes through one or two computers and its path is very evident. Whenever you use tor it goes into the bubble and it bounces around and you can't tell where it came from. And that's important because it gives people a choice.
  • Try keep it simple -- what's your Tor elevator pitch?
  • Another method: Tor is a tool that puts you back in control of the information you share when you browse the web
  • Do we need to explain further? Is a small amount of information sufficient for basic users?
  • Tor animation is a valuable resource for explaining the "what".

Why use Tor?

  • Consider what people's pre-existing associations about Tor are and try to counter them -- eg dark web and crime. However, do this by providing positive use cases rather than combating negative use cases over and over -- A has had a lot of success talking about how domestic violence survivors use Tor, as well as talking about how it subverts advertising tracking.
  • What about people who don't care? Then: helping them think about how their threat model/situation might change, talking to them about the threat models of others: eg racial profiling in advertising, economic profiling in advertising.
  • avoid using sex-related references unless you know the person, but the story of the Target profiling/pregnant teen daughter is one that gets across the point about the insidiousness of advertising tracking.
  • "the product is you" no such thing as free products, our data is the product.
  • talk to people about how they can use Tor to provide cover traffic for other people (so even if they don't care about their own privacy)

Who uses Tor?

  • different case scenarios for youth rather than academics
  • try to do threat modeling before you make your pitch
  • eg, journalist is doing a news story on a topic they don't want to be known for or don't want to get scooped -- journalists are really paranoid about this
  • eg, employee being spied on by employer -- insurance rates going up after looking up medical info
  • eg, insurance companies themselves looking for information on you to see if you're lying about a medical condition
  • other kinds of corporate monitoring (this seems to have the broadest appeal among "ordinary users")
  • have anonymity use cases (not just privacy use cases) at the ready : anonymous peer review, example of gay psychiatrist who had to wear a mask and a voice modulator

meta notes

  • start with appeal to self-interest, broaden to talk about privacy of other people
  • help people recognize that that their data is actually significant and it doesn't matter if they have "nothing to hide"; it's mostly about other people making money off you just by you visiting some website
  • talk about privacy being about control, autonomy
  • data is not visceral, so how to make it personal?
  • case studies can really help make this clear. always have some at the ready.
  • all of this said, should we continue to promote Tor as an anonymity network? or focus on broader applications? maybe need to rebrand our messaging -- free expression, intellectual freedom, privacy, control. you don't have freedom of thought if you are too afraid to learn about something.
  • people think the circuits are cool, you can show it to them under the onion button to make them more interested in how Tor works.
  • consider how many of the people who might need Tor have low digital literacy. How you can still get them into Tor when for example they don't fully understand what browsers are?
  • be aware of using jargon
  • the website could be a good resource but it's bad now -- people go to wikipedia and that kinda sucks for Tor
  • if we don't give people the info on our page they'll find it somewhere else and it'll be wrong
  • most of our promotional materials and our website do not reflect these ideas. mostly they're about an anonymity network. -- how do we reconcile these things?

FAQ we've heard from the public

  • how much does Tor cost?
  • what about the government funding? (answer: talk about open source (audits, transparency, make sure it's maintained) and govt bureaucracy is massive and works against its own interest and some agencies are still against us and also we should have better funding diversity)
  • how many developers/larger community people are there?
  • is it the dark web?
  • will I get put on a list for downloading/using it?
  • what do you do about criminals?
  • how can I trust you? (answer: all software has vulnerabilities and this one is under attack so much that lots of people are working to make it better constantly, but also you are right to be skeptical of all software)
  • so it protects my email (etc)? (answer: we need to get better at defining what Tor does and does not do in all publicity)
Last modified 3 years ago Last modified on Oct 19, 2016, 4:11:21 PM