Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Facebook isn’t something you generally associate with anonymous browsing. But, did you know that Facebook operates an Onion version of the site on the Tor network?
The Tor protocol anonymizes network traffic and circumvents ISP and local level censorship. It does this by bouncing communications around a distributed node network with a diverse range of end points where the traffic exits the Tor network and enters the standard internet.
Here is how you browse Facebook on the Tor network in five easy steps.
How Do I Access Facebook Over Tor?
The use of the Tor network remains steady, with around 2 million regular users. Yet, in comparison to the regular internet, that is a minute figure. Not that many people know how to use Tor, which is unfortunate. In recent years, the Tor development team have made it easier than ever to use.
The advent of increasing government internet surveillance and the passage of various privacy destroying policies and laws could push more regular internet users towards Tor. Better still, setting your computer up to access Facebook over Tor only takes a matter of minutes, and comes with a heap of benefits, too: better security, no tracking, and no advertising to name but a few.
Step 1: Download the Tor Browser
Tor Browser is a variant of Mozilla Firefox that comes pre-configured to access the Tor network. It is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux, and there are also versions available for Android and iOS. Furthermore, Tor Browser comes in a binary format that can run direct from a USB flash drive without any tweaking, like other handy portable apps.
Head to the Tor Project homepage and select Download Tor Browser. Once your download completes, head to the folder and install Tor Browser. After installation, open Tor Browser. It will ask whether to wish to connect directly to the Tor network or configure bridge or proxy settings. At the current time, select Connect.
Next, install any pending updates, then proceed.
Step 2: Connect to the Tor Network
Once you connect (and install any updates), you will arrive on the Tor Browser homepage, which looks like so:
The initial connection can take some time.
Please note that your Tor connection is localized to the Tor Browser. If you start torrenting or downloading other files outside of the browser, it uses your regular internet connection and your activity will remain open to your ISP. If you want to protect all of you incoming and outgoing internet traffic, you need to use a VPN.
Check out the VPN section further down the article for more information on which VPN to use, as well as how to install one.
Step 3: Head to the Facebook Onion Site
In the Tor Browser address bar, visit: https://facebookcorewwwi.onion/
Tor isn’t as fast as your regular browser. It isn’t achingly slow, but you will have to wait a moment. When the Facebook onion site loads, it will look like the standard Facebook login screen.
Step 4: Verify You’re at the Official Facebook Tor Page
Finally, to verify your connection to the Facebook server, click the green padlock in the address bar. You can see the Steps taken to the site, tracing your path across the Tor network. Now, click the arrow alongside “Secure Connection,” and check the certification. If the name on the certificate says “DigiCert Inc,” you’re in the right place.
Step 5: Disable HTML5 Canvas
When you arrive at the Facebook onion site, you will see a warning that the site is attempting to “use your HTML5 canvas image data.” Your HTML5 canvas data could potentially be used to fingerprint your browser, so it is worth disabling this feature when Tor Browser gives you the notification.
Using a VPN With TOR
Using a VPN with Tor Browser gives you an extra layer of security and a privacy boost with it. A VPN protects all of your incoming and outgoing internet traffic from prying eyes. Plus, if your Tor connection is misconfigured, your VPN will stop your Tor traffic leaking out into the regular internet. In that sense, it is a vital backup tool.
Our favorite VPN provider is ExpressVPN, which has a respected history of great performance and data privacy. You can get three FREE months of ExpressVPN if you sign up using this link.
Is Facebook Over Tor Better for Privacy?
Overall, yes, your privacy and security receive a massive boost. Connecting to the Facebook onion site virtually eliminates the potential for a man-in-the-middle attack to intercept your data. The chances of a malvertising or cryptojacking attack also substantially decreases because of the security settings in the Tor Browser.
However, once you log into the Facebook onion site, Facebook can see what you are doing. That activity is not hidden. By extension, other people will still see what you post, your likes, comments, and so on, as will government agencies and anyone else that can see your profile.
Connecting to Facebook via the Tor Browser isn’t a magic cure for the ills of social media and its invasive nature.
Use Facebook on Tor to Avoid Censorship
You can use the Tor browser to access Facebook from countries with censorship and restrictions, such as China, North Korea, and Iran. Despite Facebook’s well documented privacy issues, its ongoing tribulations with security issues, and strong links to the dissemination of fake news, it remains a vital lifeline for individuals in countries with checkered human rights records and endemic censorship of the free press.
Still, Facebook is known for its insistence that users register their real identity to use the social media site, too. It’s been known to deactivate the accounts of users it suspects of accessing the site under a “fraudulent name;” an Indianapolis bankruptcy lawyer with unfortunate luck to share a name with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg found out the hard way.
Furthermore, Facebook deactivated the accounts of hundreds of drag performers, all of whom registered using their performer pseudonyms. They reactivated some, but the struggles for drag performers to use their pseudonyms continues.
Judges, social workers, teachers, carers, abuse victims, and other individuals in vulnerable or positions or otherwise require the of use aliases, too.
Had enough of Facebook, Tor or not? It is time to delete your Facebook account. Here’s what deactivating or delete your Facebook account really means.