Is it legal to run a Tor relay node in the United States?
September 10, 2013 10:39 AM   Subscribe

I want to run a Tor relay node from my house in the United States. What, if any, legal considerations should I be concerned about?

I have read the EFF's legal FAQ on the Tor site, but it is two years old and a lot of new shit has come to light since then. I want to do this as a small way to protest NSA surveillance of the internet but do not want to expose myself to prosecution.

Note that I am not thinking of running an exit node, just a relay node. I live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, if that is relevant, and my ISP is Comcast.
posted by Aizkolari to Law & Government (3 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Well, misconfiguration can be a problem. I know someone who ran what they expected to be a relay but was really, though misconfiguration, an exit node. In about 36 hours, they had some 10s of DMCA copyright notices filed against them that required responses to. I also know for a fact (through my job as an academic researcher) that there is significant criminal activity taking place on TOR, so it could have been worse had criminal investigators come and seized the machine to verify that it was all TOR exit traffic and not the machine owner's traffic.

The other problem might be bandwidth. From what I know about TOR, it will use up every single bit you give it. Your ISP may or may not be happy about that.
posted by procrastination at 11:13 AM on September 10, 2013

Tor is legal in the United States, although the content may not be and the Tor project states that they are unaware of anyone being prosecuted for running a relay. However, the Tor network is very much a grey area right now but at this time - it's perfectly legal to run a relay but the content accessible could cause issues down the line. I personally don't see this changing anytime soon, but I'm not a lawyer or a legal expert but the EFF does offer legal advice or local recommendations should anything happen.

The more pressing issues are related to configuration changes as procrastination points out and bandwidth issues. I would start with the Tor Project homepage and go from there.
posted by lpcxa0 at 11:37 AM on September 10, 2013

I'd make a good data point, but just one data point. I've been running a relay for about 7 years, no exit traffic at all. Not a peep. I'm in metro NY.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:20 PM on September 10, 2013

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