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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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 03, 2014 @01:11PM (#47377749)

    for giving birth to evil people. Arrest them all!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 03, 2014 @01:12PM (#47377757)

    We're moving, slowly but surely, towards making your IP address the equivalent of your social security number in the US.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 03, 2014 @01:14PM (#47377779)
    Is the ISP an accomplice too? And the operating system vendor?
    • by jythie (914043) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @01:34PM (#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 zAPPzAPP (1207370)

        Probably because it is not a precedence based jurisdiction, so this case has no concern for them. They can relax, wait and battle when/if they are actually target of a lawsuit.
        Of course this decission may be an indicator of how the law is to be interpreted, but that is a problem with the law itself and winnning this case for the guy will change nothing about that for the ISPs.

    • by ZeroPly (881915)
      Not in America. Here, corporations are good people, and people people are bad people.
    • Is the ISP an accomplice too? And the operating system vendor?

      The Austrian Government owns over a 30% stake in the primary ISP and used to own 100% so... no. :-)

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Ash Vince (602485) *

      Is the ISP an accomplice too? And the operating system vendor?

      Are you really not able to see a difference between your examples and running a tor exit node?

      Let me spell it out for you: ISP's are selling you a service but tracking you in order to make sure any people using their network for anything illegal can be traced, a tor exit node is designed to let people be anonymous and untraceable. The judge made the assumption that anyone who wants to be untraceable to law enforcement must be a criminal, which is actually not such a huge stretch.

      • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Thursday July 03, 2014 @03:22PM (#47378949) Homepage

        The judge made the assumption that anyone who wants to be untraceable to law enforcement must be a criminal, which is actually not such a huge stretch.

        That's true. Except for the people who are not criminals, 100% of people using TOR are criminals.

      • The judge made the assumption that anyone who wants to be untraceable to law enforcement must be a criminal, which is actually not such a huge stretch.

        "Not a huge stretch" ...for a totalitarian, sure. But that sort of thing was supposed to have been off Austria's agenda since 1945.

      • The judge made the assumption that anyone who wants to be untraceable to law enforcement must be a criminal, which is actually not such a huge stretch.

        Fascinating. And here I thought "Papers, please!" was not an acceptable law enforcement tactic in Austria anymore.

        (In case this is unclear -- the default in most democratic countries has generally been that people are effectively "untraceable to law enforcement." I know that may seem completely crazy in this new era of continuous surveillance, fingerprint and DNA databases (even for non-criminals), etc., but it's actually how the world mostly was until just the past couple decades. Exactly why should t

  • by msauve (701917) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @01:15PM (#47377799)
    They contributed at least as much. And, a few backbone providers. This guy was just a single hop, they contribute many.
    • Ah, but the ISPs and backbone providers are likely big companies with lawyers. So they can't possibly be accomplices and must be completely innocent angels. This individual with no team of lawyers on retainer is obviously guilty of helping out nasty criminals.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        And, don't forget, the provisions of the DMCA and the things like it were written in such a way as to safeguard the ISPs as long as they played ball with the authorities.

        Under the guise of copyright reform, government have rigged the game, and built in a mechanism by which they can continue to illegally spy on everybody and pretend like it's all legit.

        We are pretty much fucked. "State Security" has become the catch phrase (along with kiddie porn and copyright) which is being used to ensure we no longer liv

  • by TWX (665546) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @01:16PM (#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.
    • The problem is with saying a particular Tor node might be involved in a "crime" (copyright infringement (shudder)). The summary's example is a little flawed, it's more akin to arresting a car dealer because an auto they sold might be involved in a crime. The same argument could be made about cash (could be involved in something nefarious and untraceable) or, god help us, guns. This is just kowtowing to corporate interests, masquerading as shoddy legal thinking.
      • The same argument could be made about cash (could be involved in something nefarious and untraceable)

        Go read about "civil forfeiture" and be very, very upset.

    • by wagnerrp (1305589)

      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

      I was under the impression TOR was explicitly designed to allow others to break the law, for the benefit of regions where things like expressing an opinion is illegal. Of course an anonymizer service is only effective if there is plenty of other innocuous white noise on the same channel.

      • by jxander (2605655)

        TOR is just a mask. A means to obscure yourself

        Should we arrest anyone we see wearing a mask? Should we arrest people who sell masks?

        • by DaHat (247651)

          It's illegal in quite a few states to wear a mask in public due to past attempts on cracking down on the KKK.

          • by jxander (2605655)

            Interesting, but it was the 2nd question that bears more relevance to the actual issue.

            If someone sells masks (i.e. outdoor/hiking stores, Halloween stores, etc) is the seller liable if someone wears the mask to commit a crime?

            • by DaHat (247651)

              If they have a reasonable belief that the person will used the purchased item in a crime... then yes... sometimes.

              This is nothing new... plenty of gun manufacturers and stores have been hit by lawsuits over the years (and in some cases, criminal charges) because items they manufactured or sold were later used in a crime.

              Bar tenders have seen civil & criminal prosecutions for continuing to serve someone who was already clearly intoxicated and then later drove home and killed someone.

              I'm not saying it's r

    • by AaronLS (1804210)

      Agreed. There are some very noble uses of Tor, but when you operate an exit node you are basically allowing any scum to use your connection to hide their activities, and some are really sick. I wish there were a good solution to allow an exit node to be operated, but prevent some of the more nefarious uses. In the absence of that, it is pretty irresponsible to contribute such a powerful component(the exit node) without discretion for what it will be used for. At least an ISP providing a physical link has

    • by MarkvW (1037596)

      I think you're making good points. If I own a toll bridge, I know that my bridge is going to be used to transport all kinds of stolen property. Still, I shouldn't be liable for such transport.

    • 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.

      The same could be said for any emerging technology. That argument would have applied when SSL was new. Maybe one day Tor will be standard, you buy a new computer, get online, and it's using Tor without you ever changing any settings. The EFF is already saying that everyone should use Tor [eff.org]. At this point, the only reason it's not the norm is because it's fairly new. I wouldn't be surprised if we see computers within a couple years marketed with privacy in mind that come with Tor already installed and con

    • Yes, but what if the 'law' being broken is one suppressing freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or otherwise reporting on things that uncomfortable for those making the laws?

      Things like Tor have an intrinsic value to society. Cases like this show that even in western democracies -- government has an active interest in suppressing hard won liberties :(

    • by Jaime2 (824950)

      Isn't this just another form of the "illegal to be black" line of thinking? Just because you have a certain skin color or live in a certain neighborhood doesn't automatically mean you should be treated like a criminal. Sure it's expedient for cops to make these generalizations, but it's wrong.

      • by TWX (665546)
        Being black is what one is, not what one does.

        Now, it's unfortunately common that participating in thug culture is interpreted as "being black". If someone is aspiring to thug culture in their mannerisms and how they attire and adorn themselves then yes, they will be judged based on their appearance, even if they've never committed a crime, and they will be scrutinized.

        Every racial group has their own form of thug culture, and sometimes they overlap in style, or someone of a different ethnicity will
  • by NReitzel (77941) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @01:18PM (#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.

    • by jklovanc (1603149) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @01:41PM (#47378063)

      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."

      If you are going to quote someone then you need to give a name and, if possible, a reference. Saying "a congressman from the United States" is meaningless. Yes, I did a Google search for that phrase and found nothing.

    • 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."

      Funny, I tried googling your quote to see what congressman said it and when, but Google didn't find any matches. I also tried some variants of the wording but still no luck. It seems to me that such a quote would produce a lot of search results if it happened. Citation please?

      • by NReitzel (77941) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @07:11PM (#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.

  • Uh no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday July 03, 2014 @01:20PM (#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 Jaime2 (824950)
      I would like to have seen the original example as "The city government that maintains the roads and traffic control devices would be liable for allowing the suspect to get away fast enough to evade capture".
    • by BitZtream (692029)

      The owner of the VW would be liable if they put the keys somewhere with a big sign that says 'use my car to keep the law from knowing what YOU are doing by making it look like it was me!'

  • by terbeaux (2579575) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @01:21PM (#47377857)

    You can spin up your own Tor exit node in Austria here: http://lowendbox.com/tag/austria/ [lowendbox.com]

    Or, if you prefer, you can just donate to people that are running nodes here: https://www.torproject.org/docs/faq#RelayDonations [torproject.org]

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

    That may be the case, but probably only if VW knowingly pursued bank robbers as customers (e.g.; in their ads they said something to the effect of "Perfect as a get-away vehicle!")

    I'd bet the courts/prosecutor said something to the effect "As the 'administrator' of a TOR exit node, It's not unreasonable for the operator to expect illicit or illegal activity to take place, as the intent of TOR

    • Comcast is turning users' cable modems into public hotspots. So anyone could connect to a user's modem and use it for any purpose that one might connect to the Internet for. If said use is illegal, would the person who owned (or leased it from Comcast as the case may be) be liable as an accomplice? After all, if you provide open Internet access, you've got to expect that someone is going to do something illegal with it.

      (I know that the story is in Australia and this is in the US, but this sounds like a v

      • by Shakrai (717556)

        Comcast is turning users' cable modems into public hotspots. So anyone could connect to a user's modem and use it for any purpose that one might connect to the Internet for. If said use is illegal, would the person who owned (or leased it from Comcast as the case may be) be liable as an accomplice?

        My understanding is that it's not a public hotspot, the access is only made available for other Comcast customers, and that in any event the traffic is handled separately from the owner of the connection. It goes out with a different globally valid IP and does not count against the owner's bandwidth cap or otherwise inconvenience him.

      • by DF5JT (589002)

        (I know that the story is in Australia and this is in the US, but this sounds like a valid comparison.)

        This may be news to you, but there is actually a country called Austria and it's not the one with the kangaroos.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @01:28PM (#47377919)
    More like arresting a taxi driver for transporting a bank robber when the taxi driver didn't know he was a bank robber.
  • A few points (Score:5, Informative)

    by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @01:35PM (#47377993)

    1. Apparently a final ruling has not been reached. While a court has found the operator guilty it's not clear if that will ultimately hold.

    2. None of TFA provide any details of what the ruling was based on, beyond the TOT node being used for illegal activity by someone else. Without more details, it is impossible to conclude that merely running a TOR node is illegal; the only conclusion from TFA is someone was prosecuted for running one. A relationship between the operator and the user committing fraud, or if the operator new the user was using the node of illegal purposes, is vastly different than merely running a node where a user is using it for illegal activities. The former is much more reasonable to prosecute than the latter.

    3. As others point out, in keeping with /. traditions, the car analogy is bogus.

  • Let's hope lots of kidnap victims will now sue the phone company and the post office because they aided the kidnapper by allowing and delivering anonymous phone calls and ransom notes.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @01:36PM (#47378007) Homepage

    So is the gist of this that anything which prevents the government from spying on you is now illegal?

    Have we come that far already?

    Sad, the world used to be such a nice place, but governments have become so demanding in their surveillance that anything which they can't defeat is now illegal.

  • Ultimately you are responsible for the traffic that exits your PC. Sure, if you are infected with a virus, you have a potential 'out' but if you *allow* it, then not so much.

    The "VW" analogy in the story line, is ludicrous. If you want to use a car analogy; its like letting your friends store gym bags in your trunk while you drive cross country. You didnt ask what was in the bags, but know there could be drugs..

  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @01:42PM (#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 richlv (778496)

      "While honest people most certainly use cars, so do criminals"

      so you were saying ?

    • Tor on the other hand, is explicitly designed to allow people to remain anonymous, to prevent detection.

      Amazing how faulty logic can be disguised by just putting a comma into a sentence. If you had an "AND" or "OR" at the end of the sentence, I might have agreed with you.

      But by using a comma, you implicitly claim that "to remain anonymous" = "to prevent detection." Those are not the same at all. There are all sorts of reasons people might want to remain anonymous, most notably just because they believe in something called "privacy" and don't want other people (governments, online businesses, internet ad

  • If history has taught us anything at all it has taught us that Austria has a tendency to be way over the edge of reasoning in its legal practices. The reason the car analogy is correct is that in fact the average car will at some point be used to commit a crime. For example driving a bit drunk is a crime. Forgetting to make a timely renewal on the cars insurance is also a criminal act. Speeding is a crime as well. Therefore the average car is sold with the seller knowingly being an accom
  • by chuckugly (2030942) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @02:23PM (#47378457)
    Does this make every link, switch, and router on the route an accomplice? Why not?
  • Postal mail - the original pirate transport mechanism!

    they need to be shut down, stat!

  • This has been a long time coming. Not to say is the right thing, but I think it was bound to happen. Freedom for the masses is a very dangerous thing for the stability of our society ... I mean ... for the billionaire multinational "elite" and their puppet "democratic" governments. I'll consider him a martyr for the evolution of human society (sorry Fritz!).
    For things to get better, they sometimes have to get worse :-(

  • by denzacar (181829) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @03:15PM (#47378887) Journal

    Most of the world uses something called Civil Law [wikipedia.org] as opposed to your Common Law that you inherited from UK.

    Which is why in most of the world precedents don't carry as much weight [wikipedia.org] as they do in Common Law legal systems like yours, where the rationale for the decision makes each sentence a binding precedent in other courts.

    And that is why this single decision DOES NOT "effectively now make it illegal to run a Tor exit node" in Austria.
    NOR would "Volkswagen be liable if someone drove a VW as the getaway car in a bank robbery".

    • by Maquis196 (535256)

      Austria, not Australia.... afaik, UK never owned the former head of the Holy Roman Empire :)

      • by Maquis196 (535256)

        apologies, misread your comment!

        • by denzacar (181829)

          It's OK.
          I had to return to the summary to check that I haven't misread it.
          And then I had to check the article again to make sure timothy read it right.

          After all, it is the Internet.
          Half the shit one reads or sees in any given day requires a double check to make sure you saw/read right.
          I.e. Transformers 4 made HOW MUCH MONEY?!
          Why would anyone go to see that after the last 3 movies which were essentially one and the same movie done 3 times and only made longer? [youtube.com]

  • Isn't this more like if almost all the employees at McDonald's were also dealing drugs out the back door? Pretty sure all the franchise owners would at least be investigated/harassed out of business in that case. Not saying it's right, but it makes way more sense than the car thing.
  • ...to know that us Americans are not the only ones who are batshit crazy.
  • by ConfusedVorlon (657247) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @04:55PM (#47379689) Homepage

    They provide 80% of the Tor Project's funds.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org]

  • common carriers are also accomplices to all on-line crimes then.

try again

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