Why IP Addresses Alone Don’t Identify Criminals | Electronic Frontier Foundation

This spring, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) executed a search warrant at the home of Nolan King and seized six computer hard drives in connection with a criminal investigation. The warrant was issued on the basis of an Internet Protocol (IP) address that traced back to an account connected to Mr. King’s home, where he was operating a Tor exit relay.

An exit relay is the last computer that Tor traffic goes through before it reaches its destination. Because Tor traffic exits through these computers, their IP addresses may be misinterpreted as the source of the traffic, even though the exit node operator is neither the true origin of that traffic nor able to identify the user who is. While law enforcement officers have seized exit relays in other countries, we weren’t aware of any seizures in the United States until ICE showed up at Mr. King’s home.

After the computers were seized, EFF spoke with ICE and explained that Mr. King was running a Tor exit relay in his home. We pointed out that ICE could confirm on the Tor Project’s web site that a computer associated with the IP address listed in the warrant was highly likely to have been running an exit relay at the date and time listed in the warrant. ICE later returned the hard drives, warning Mr. King that “this could happen again.” After EFF sent a letter, however, ICE confirmed that it hadn’t retained any data from the computer and that Mr. King is no longer a person of interest in the investigation.

While we think it’s important to let the public know about this unfortunate event, it doesn’t change our belief that running a Tor exit relay is legal. And it’s worth highlighting the fact that these unnecessary incidents are avoidable, and law enforcement agents and relay operators alike can take measures to avoid them in the future.

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via Why IP Addresses Alone Don’t Identify Criminals | Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Well, that actually went much better than expected for the first raid brought on by running a TOR exit node in the US. Makes me a little more likely to be willing to open my relay up to exit traffic at some point in the future…though not yet, given a few factors… Glad to see some of the tools mentioned later in this article to help law enforcement not waste their time with the process of getting and carrying out a warrant unnecessarily…

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