Since the world’s largest online social networking service insists on its users declaring their real names upon opening an account, you’d think Facebook is generally opposed to privacy-protecting software like Tor.
But anonymous browsing, communication and socialization has been permitted on desktops for close to two years now, and up next, FB intends to let Android enthusiasts do the same. For the time being, you’ll need to jump through a few hoops to get The Onion Router protocol up and running on your phone, and also keep your expectations low regarding the service’s stability and speed.
After all, the “project” was initiated by a summer intern, subsequently picked up by Mark Zuckerberg’s Protect and Care team in London, and it’s currently offered as an “experimental” feature, which you can activate via the Orbot proxy app.
Once switched on from your Facebook “App Settings” menu, the Tor network will help encrypt the content of your conversations, social searches and all other types of FB interaction, much like Signal, CyanogenMod’s new darling, looks after the privacy of your SMS messages and voice correspondence.
In fact, the Tor Project’s own spokeswoman used Signal to tell Reuters “everybody in the world needs more privacy online and almost everybody is on Facebook”, so “this will allow people to choose whether to share their location or not”, which can be convenient for some, and outright “lifesaving” for others.
Also, no, Tor anonymity isn’t headed for Facebook’s iOS app. Not yet, at least.