Abstract: While the Internet increasingly permeates everyday life of individuals around the world, it becomes crucial to prevent unauthorized collection and abuse of personalized information. Internet anonymization software such as Tor is an important instrument to protect online privacy. However, due to the performance overhead caused by Tor, many Internet users refrain from using it. This causes a negative impact on the overall privacy provided by Tor, since it depends on the size of the user community and availability of shared resources. Detailed measurements about the performance of Tor are crucial for solving this issue. This paper presents comparative experiments on Tor latency and throughput for surfing to 500 popular websites from several locations around the world during the period of 28 days. Furthermore, we compare these measurements to critical latency thresholds gathered from web usability research, including our own user studies. Our results indicate that without massive future optimizations of Tor performance, it is unlikely that a larger part of Internet users would adopt it for everyday usage. This leads to fewer resources available to the Tor community than theoretically possible, and increases the exposure of privacy-concerned individuals. Furthermore, this could lead to an adoption barrier of similar privacy-enhancing technologies for a Future Internet.
Keywords: internet anonymity; onion routing; Tor; web latency; usability
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Müller, S.; Brecht, F.; Fabian, B.; Kunz, S.; Kunze, D. Distributed Performance Measurement and Usability Assessment of the Tor Anonymization Network. Future Internet 2012, 4, 488-513.
Müller S, Brecht F, Fabian B, Kunz S, Kunze D. Distributed Performance Measurement and Usability Assessment of the Tor Anonymization Network. Future Internet. 2012; 4(2):488-513.
Müller, Sebastian; Brecht, Franziska; Fabian, Benjamin; Kunz, Steffen; Kunze, Dominik. 2012. "Distributed Performance Measurement and Usability Assessment of the Tor Anonymization Network." Future Internet 4, no. 2: 488-513.