“There’s no way anyone can be anonymous on the web —it’s impossible!”  That’s a statement many of us have heard, or read, over the last few years. So we do what we can to protect our privacy and personal information so we don’t become identity theft victims.  We might try and limit the tracking of our “web footprints” through various means —not hitting the “remember me” buttons, or disabling persistent cookies and/or only allowing session cookies, using different names and passwords on sites or taking advantage of the “Do Not Track” buttons appearing on many sites.

I’m not suggesting people want to be, or should be, completely anonymous on the Internet.  In fact, there are instances we’ve heard about, or can imagine, when anonymity has been, or could be, negative and dangerous.  But what if you did want to be anonymous?  Is there a way to do so ?

I’ve just learned about the Tor Project whose goal is allowing people to do just that.  Jeff Gelles, Philadelphia Inquirer Business Columnist,  interviewed Andrew Lewman, the Chief Executive Officer, for the non-profit Tor Project (July 19; http://articles.philly.com; “Tech Life: Fostering Anonymity Online”).

Tor is a free software that can be downloaded and claims to prevent anyone from learning your location or browsing habits on the Internet. Tor was first developed and implemented several years ago by the U.S. Navy in order to protect government communications.  It has since become a volunteer led project (with 2 or 3 paid staffers).

As described by Mr. Lewman, the Tor Project goal is to permit people anywhere in the world to be able to access the Internet to “read, write and communicate” however they’d like “under the protection of reliable anonymity.”  His initial Tor Project priority had been protecting people from online tracking.  He notes that people connecting to the Internet at, for example, coffee shops with free, open-WiFi, are allowing those shops to see where they’ve gone on the Internet as well as their user names and passwords.  He said he thought there was little chance that someone at such places would steal that personal information.

Now the Tor Project, and its volunteers, are focused on providing anonymity to users in countries with little or no respect for human rights. They want to enable people in countries with censorship to be able to post comments and views that disagree with their respective governments.  And to be able to do so anonymously so they don’t have to fear being tracked down, prosecuted, jailed and worse.

I wanted to learn more so went to the Tor Project website (www.TorProject.org).  The site provides background about Tor, its history, mission, and prior and current sponsors (government agencies and private sector companies).

I can’t and won’t vouch for the Tor software.  But if you’d like more information, additional details can be found either in Mr. Gelles’ article or at the Tor Project website.