Tor and the City: MSA-Level Correlates of Interest in Anonymous Web Browsing

Andrew M. Lindner, Gina Pryciak, Jamie Elsner
2020 Surveillance & Society  
In the twenty-first century, Americans have put more of their lives online while the US government has expanded its mass surveillance apparatus. Interest in anonymity-granting technologies like The Onion Router (Tor) has grown substantially as citizens seek to protect their privacy. However, this same technology can be used to engage in illegal activity on the dark web. This study examines how interest in the dark web, public attention to the 2013 Snowden revelations, and metro-area political
more » ... eology are associated with public interest in Tor. We link data from multiple sources including Google Trends, the American Community Survey, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Cooperative Congressional Election Study for the forty-nine largest US Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) from 2006–2015 (n=490). Broadly, we find that metro areas with liberal citizen ideology and greater interest in the dark web were more likely to search for Tor. When controlling for the level of interest in the dark web, the Snowden revelations of 2013 had no significant impact on interest in Tor. These findings suggest that the lure of the dark web and left-leaning ideological contexts offer stronger explanations for interest in anonymity-granting technology than the public attention brought to mass surveillance by the Snowden revelations.
doi:10.24908/ss.v18i4.13235 fatcat:3kciwf4nyfhwnefff2fsgfp2j4