Comcast Declares War on Tor?
If you needed another reason to hate Comcast, the most hated company in America, they’ve just given it to you: they’ve declared war on Tor Browser.
Reports have surfaced (The first one was via /r/darknetmarkets and another one submitted to us) that Comcast agents have contacted customers using Tor and instructed them to stop using the browser or risk termination of service. A Comcast agent named Jeremy allegedly called Tor an “illegal service.” The Comcast agent told its customer that such activity is against usage policies.
The Comcast agent then repeatedly asked the customer to tell him what sites he was accessing on the Tor browser. The customer refused to answer.
The next day the customer called Comcast and spoke to another agent named Kelly who reiterated that Comcast does not want its customers using Tor. The Comcast agent then allegedly told the customer:
Users who try to use anonymity, or cover themselves up on the internet, are usually doing things that aren’t so-to-speak legal. We have the right to terminate, fine, or suspend your account at anytime due to you violating the rules. Do you have any other questions? Thank you for contacting Comcast, have a great day.
How did Comcast know its customers were using Tor in the first place? Because Tor Browser provides online anonymity to its users, This would mean that Comcast is monitoring the online activities of its users, to (among other things) check if they are following their Acceptable Use Policy.
Comcast has previously been listed by the Tor project as a Bad ISP. The users of the Tor project listed Comcast as a bad ISP that is not friendly to Tor. The Tor project cited Comcast’s Acceptable Use Policy for its residential customers which claims to not allow servers or proxies under “technical restrictions.”:
use or run dedicated, stand-alone equipment or servers from the Premises that provide network content or any other services to anyone outside of your Premises local area network (“PremisesLAN”), also commonly referred to as public services or servers. Examples of prohibited equipment and servers include, but are not limited to, email, web hosting, file sharing, and proxy services and servers;
A Comcast spokesperson told DeepDotWeb that:
We respect customer privacy and security and would only investigate the specifics of a customer’s account with a valid court order. And if we’re asked by a court to provide customer information, then we ask for a reasonable amount of time to notify the customer so they can decide if they would like to hire a lawyer and if they do, then we turn the case over to them and they proceed with the judge directly and we step away.
However, this statement appears to be at odds with Comcast’s treatment of Ross Ulbricht, alleged Dread Pirate Roberts.
Comcast previously corroborated with the FBI by providing information on alleged Silk Road mastermind Ross Ulbricht’s internet usage. Ulbricht’s legal defense without a warrant. Ulbricht was most certainly never given a warning by Comcast or given time to contact a lawyer before he was arrested in a San Francisco library last October.
Comcast already monitors its customers internet usage to prevent them from downloading pirated media in violation of copyright laws. Under the “Six Strikes” plan, Comcast customers who are caught by Comcast pirating copy-written material are emailed by Comcast and told to cease the activity. Comcast will continue monitoring them, and if they violate the “Six Strikes” plan five more times, their internet service will be terminated.
EDIT 14.9.14: Removed a sentence that was wrong. Added link.
EDIT2 15.9.14: Comcast released a post Setting the Record Straight on Tor denying the above and stating: “The anecdotal chat room evidence described in these reports is not accurate.” Without explaining what is the “accurate” explanation?