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Communications Encryption Privacy

Austrian Tor Exit Node Operator Found Guilty As an Accomplice 255

Posted by timothy
from the blame-thompson-for-babyface-nelson dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from TechDirt: Three years ago we wrote about how Austrian police had seized computers from someone running a Tor exit node. This kind of thing happens from time to time, but it appears that folks in Austria have taken it up a notch by... effectively now making it illegal to run a Tor exit node. According to the report, which was confirmed by the accused, the court found that running the node violated 12 of the Austrian penal code, which effectively says:"Not only the immediate perpetrator commits a criminal action, but also anyone who appoints someone to carry it out, or anyone who otherwise contributes to the completion of said criminal action." In other words, it's a form of accomplice liability for criminality. It's pretty standard to name criminal accomplices liable for "aiding and abetting" the activities of others, but it's a massive and incredibly dangerous stretch to argue that merely running a Tor exit node makes you an accomplice that "contributes to the completion" of a crime. Under this sort of thinking, Volkswagen would be liable if someone drove a VW as the getaway car in a bank robbery. It's a very, very broad interpretation of accomplice liability, in a situation where it clearly does not make sense.
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Austrian Tor Exit Node Operator Found Guilty As an Accomplice

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  • by TWX (665546) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @12:16PM (#47377801)
    It'll come down to an opinion as to whether or not the use of Tor implies an intent to allow others to break the law. While an anonymizer service itself can be used for both legal and illegal purposes, if the court later finds that its use is far more illegitimate than it is legitimate, then that will dictate how they rule on the matter.

    That's the biggest difference compared to the car analogy, in that the demonstrated legitimate use of cars far, far outweighs the illegitimate use of cars. Using cars is the norm. Using Tor is not the norm, and so then it becomes a matter of scrutinizing what it does, who uses it, and for what purposes.

    Same issues held true for networks like Napster and MegaUpload, and holds true for bit torrent.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 03, 2014 @12:17PM (#47377811)

    By this logic, anyone running an internet router is guilty under this interpretation of that law if they connect between a piece of malware and a C&C server.

  • by NReitzel (77941) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @12:18PM (#47377829) Homepage

    In the post-911 world, police departments all over the world are moving into Orwellian territory. They spot someone that they "know" is doing a crime, and they go searching for a law to hammer them.

    With laws that don't sunset, and legislative organizations (worldwide) passing more rules and regulations and laws as fast as they can write them down, the state is moving to consolidate it's power. Once, a congressman from the United States said of his constituents, "There are no law-abiding citizens, there are only citizens who haven't yet broken a law."

    Wait for it. The police are choosing to persecute (sic) whomever they want to, and due process seems to be fading into the sunset.

  • Uh no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday July 03, 2014 @12:20PM (#47377843) Homepage Journal

    Under this sort of thinking, Volkswagen would be liable if someone drove a VW as the getaway car in a bank robbery.

    No. Under this sort of thinking, the owner of a Volkswagen would be liable if someone drove their VW as the getaway car in a bank robbery. And indeed, in some countries you can be held [partially] liable for misuse of your vehicle even if all you did was leave the keys in the car, especially if you have even a passing relationship with the perpetrators.

  • by nitehawk214 (222219) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @12:27PM (#47377907)

    Or, in other words, guilty until proven innocent.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @12:28PM (#47377919)
    More like arresting a taxi driver for transporting a bank robber when the taxi driver didn't know he was a bank robber.
  • by jythie (914043) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @12:34PM (#47377987)
    That makes me a bit concerned and curious as to why no ISPs or similar companies got involved in the case. While a judge and jury might not understand the technical details, people working in tech (and their lawyers) probably would and companies should be concerned about how this might come back to them.
  • by Culture20 (968837) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @12:41PM (#47378059)

    Prima: I need to do some dodgy shit.
    Secunda: I am going to offer a resource for people to do dodgy shit.
    Prima: I am going to use your resource to do dodgy shit.
    Secunda: OK, please carry on using it.

    Prima: I need to be anonymous
    Secunda: I offer masks. Masks make you anonymous.
    Prima: I am going to use your resource (thinking only to self: to do dodgy shit.)
    Secunda: I'm glad someone appreciates my fine craftsmanship.

    If a bankrobber robs a bank while wearing a mask purchased from a store, is that mask store held liable? Usually only if the bank robber explicitly said "I'm going to use this mask to do dodgy shit".

    users of the tor network don't notify exit node maintainers what they plan to do with the exit nodes they transfer data from. At best, an exit node maintainer might be able to firewall off certain sites, but that's cumbersome and doesn't prevent 99% of evil use cases.

  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @12:42PM (#47378077) Homepage Journal

    The car analogy is so flawed it really should be removed from the story for this significant reason: cars are designed to move people and stuff. They can be used to commit crimes, but that is not their intended use.

    Tor on the other hand, is explicitly designed to allow people to remain anonymous, to prevent detection. While honest people most certainly use Tor, so do criminals and it is because of Tor's intended purpose that the police are justifying their actions.

    Before anyone flames me, I am not justifying what is taking place. I am only giving a much better explanation than that ridiculous car analogy for why this is taking place.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 03, 2014 @12:53PM (#47378213)

    Not until we get IPv6, which will tattooed on your arm.

    And the other two 6's are?

  • by NReitzel (77941) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @06:11PM (#47380465) Homepage

    My apologies. I searched myself for the quotation and did not find it. The person in question was Charles Schumer (US Senator), and his remarks were in response to a rather over-the-top NRA assertion that the government was trying to take guns away from "Law Abiding Citizens" subsequent to some multiple shooting event. The event made at least one video outlet -- which is how I saw it -- but apparently was not recorded. This I actually understand, and find nothing nefarious about it -- after all, there was a hugely more serious event to report on.

    Since I was unable to provide an actual citation, I did not "name names" -- and the comment was more to illustrate an attitude by lawmakers (not necessarily Mr Schumer personally) that government should have the power to go after someone that "they think" is a Bad Guy, and screw the legal process.

    In the US, there have been countless cases of cops trying to charge someone recording their actions on video, because having their actions stand up to careful scrutiny seems (to them) to be an undue burden. The current trend towards categorizing all "illegal immigrants" as drug mules is another example. "They are here illegally, right? So we know they've broken a law." Yes, but _drug mules_ ? That's a stretch.

    As a person who witnessed the 1968 events in Chicago, I know that there are some police forces who have the attitude of "We know who the bad guys are and we need to be able to go after them" and the phrase "burden of proof" seems to be missing from their repertoire. Thankfully, in the US, the majority of police forces are not there, at least not yet.

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