Facebook introduces Android app support for Tor anonymity service

The new feature makes it easier than ever before to browse Facebook securely and privately

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The Independent Tech

Facebook's Android app can now be accessed through the highly encrypted anonymous internet service Tor.

Facebook has been improving its Tor functionality for some time - in November 2014, they announced Tor users would be able to access the social network through the regular Tor browser.

Now, using Facebook through Tor will be much easier - rather than having to download a new browser and look up the complicated URL for the site, you'll be able to connect the app with a few easy modifications.

The new development comes during a time of increased discussion about internet privacy. The issue of 'back doors' in encryption - or mechanisms that allow governments and law enforcement to read private internet communications - was discussed at the recent Democratic debate in the US.

Speaking to the Guardian, Kate Krauss, a spokeswoman for the Tor Project, which created the anonymous browser, said: "Everybody in the world need more privacy online and almost everybody is on Facebook."

"For some people, this is convenience. For others it is lifesaving."

Tor works by using multiple levels of encryption to hide information about online communications to everyone but the sender and receiver. If hackers, governments or law enforcement managed to intercept internet traffic sent through Tor, the information they got would be unreadable, since they wouldn't have access to the encryption keys that could decode the information.

This makes Tor users completely anonymous when they're online, and the browser has become hugely popular amongst those who are concerned about their internet privacy.

However, it's also a source of concern for governments, since Tor could potentially provide criminals and terrorists with a communication system that they can't access.

The popularisation of Tor has also given rise to a number of so-called 'dark markets', which allow people to buy drugs, firearms and other illegal goods easily and anonymously.

However, the browser has a multitude of legitimate uses, and is commonly used by dissidents and activists in repressive countries to access the internet and communicate securely.

To browse Facebook through Tor on an Android device, users will need to download the Orbot app, which facilitates the original connection to Tor, and change some settings in the Facebook app.

It's a new service that is still being rolled out, so it may still have some bugs or problems. Facebook hopes user feedback will help them iron the issues out.