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Let's say I'm using Tor in order to anonymize my traffic, but only for privacy sake. I'm not torrenting, cracking or don't illegal things (of course).

Now let's say that a very famous hacker or trafficker or even pedophile who is hunted by the cyber police is using Tor as well. And sadly, I'm the last relay, so sites that the criminal visits logs my IP. Then the police gets this IP (so mine). What would happen?

Hypothesis:

  • I'm arrested. But what then? I'm "clean".
  • I'm arrested as a partner in crime. But Tor usage isn't illegal, is it?
  • I'm freed because it wasn't me. I just said that I was using Tor. But they have no way to check the truth of that, huh? So supposedly if the criminal didn't used Tor, he could have said to the police when he get caught that it wasn't him, he was using Tor (even if he didn't) and the relay did it.

PS: what about minor crimes such as pirating movies?

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    If you're just using Tor, you are not a Tor exit node. If you choose to run a Tor exit node, you should be well aware of these issues. – Greg Hewgill Nov 5 '14 at 19:11
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    So you are not a relay when using Tor unless you want to? So who would agree to deal with that? How does Tor find relays then? And lastly, I've seen i2p recently. There you are an exit node each time? – Vinz243 Nov 5 '14 at 19:13
  • @Vinz243 Hi there; welcome to Tor.SE. This sort of thing really depends what jurisdiction you're in; in some countries it may be illegal to use Tor, in others, maybe not. It's still unclear wheather this sort of question is on topic (see the conversation here). – Sam Whited Nov 5 '14 at 21:44
  • Hi, Sam. I personally don't see any reason why people here should feel compelled to try and enforc the rules laid out by SE as regards what types of questions are allowed, etc. My aim here is to promote Tor, not follow arbitrary rules by SE (which are designed for a programmers' group) -- unless they start enforcing their rules, which would threaten the group's functioning. P.S. Bravo to you on welcoming new people. – Chinup Nov 6 '14 at 15:00
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Obligatory disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer and this should not be considered legal advise.

Tor usage may or may not be illegal depending on your jurisdiction. In the United States Tor is not illegal, and I have never heard of anyone actually being convicted (or even arrested) for crimes committed by others over their exit node (though there have been instances of equipment siezure during investigations involving criminal activity over an exit node).

You are not an exit node by default; you must configure your Tor relay to be an exit node (or even a regular non-exit relay).

If you do run into legal issues with Tor, this answer from the Tor FAQ may help:

Q: I'm facing legal trouble. How do I prove that my server was a Tor relay at a given time?

A: Exonerator is a web service that can check if an IP address was a relay at a given time. We can also provide a signed letter if needed.

For more information, this blog post from 2010 is especially helpful.

Good general recommendations for running an exit relay include:

  • Don't run it at home or at your place of business
  • Inform your ISP or VPS provider what you intend to do
  • Register an LLC (or the equivalent in your country) and place your exit node under its control
  • Also, given the risk of equipment seizure, it's not prudent to run an exit relay at ones home or place of business. Even with minimal risk of conviction, ones digital life (including onsite backups) could be entirely destroyed. It matters not that seized stuff would eventually be returned, because it would be entirely untrustable. – mirimir Nov 6 '14 at 3:15
  • I don't see that being an LLC would help, as the members are easily knowable. Also, a single member LLC provides less protection than a real LLC civilly, as per "piercing the veil" under the law which is meant to prevent a person from escaping civil liability merely by having started an LLC (but that's not settled law). – Chinup Nov 6 '14 at 15:16
  • @Chinup Having an LLC does not shield you personally from responsibility, but it does prevent your own assets from being siezed (eg. if you get sued for a lot of money, they can't take your personal money, only that which is owned by the LLC). You're correct that it's not as effective with one person or if you can't show a clear separation between your personal assets and the LLC, but it pays to be safe. You won't know until it happens, so why not try to mitigate the risk in the mean time? Again, see that blog post for a good explanation. – Sam Whited Nov 6 '14 at 16:52
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I recall that in years past, there were arrests of exit-node-operators in some places, e.g. Germany. The arrestee had to convince the legal authorities that the node operator was not the person whose traffic exited the node to the forbidden site. In the meantime, the node operator might have been sitting in jail.

That's why there are a lot fewer exit nodes than entry or middle nodes.

PS: what about minor crimes such as pirating movies?

In the U.S., the federal government does whatever Hollywood wants. So there are very severe penalties for depriving stars and producers of a nickel (aka piracy).

As I recall, a woman in Minnesota was sued by the entertainment industry and ordered by the (gullible) jury to pay many hundreds of thousands of dollars for uploading 20 0r so songs to same sharing site. Also the same for a guy in New York. So the minor civil violation can have severe penalties.

But anybody who cares about rights and freedom of expression should never be using Tor for exchanging movies/songs anyway, since that is an abuse of what Tor is meant for. Besides wasting bandwidth, it gives a bad name to Tor which the enemies of freedom can use against us.

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