Description

This cartogram illustrates users of Tor: one of the largest anonymous networks on the Internet.

Data

The data are freely and openly available on the Tor Metrics Portal, which provides information about the number of users per country joining their network every day. The average number of users has been calculated over a one-year period, prior to August 2013, when malware Sefnit “took the Tor Network by storm”, starting to use Tor for its communications and thus disrupting Tor’s usage statistics.

Findings

Tor is an opensource project promoting online anonymity through free software and volunteer collaboration. The Tor network consists of more than five thousand nodes. Tor users can connect to the network and have their Internet data routed through the network before reaching any server or webpage, thus the latter are not able to distinguish between Tor users or locate them.

Tor is the most popular and well known network of its kind, and it is used world-wide by over 750,000 Internet users every day. This is about the size of a small country; half-way between the Internet populations of Luxembourg and Estonia.

Over half of Tor users are located in Europe, which is also the region with the highest penetration, as the service is used by an average of 80 per 100,000 European Internet users. Italy in particular accounts for over 76,000 users a day, which is about one fifth of the entire European Tor daily user base. Italy is second only to the United States in terms of average number of users, as over 126,000 people access the Internet through Tor every day from the United States. The service is popular throughout the whole European region, with a high penetration in Moldova, as well as in less populous states: about a hundred Internet users connect to Tor every day from each of San Marino, Monaco, Andorra, and Liechtenstein, despite their small Internet populations.

When looking at the number of Tor users as a percentage of the larger Internet population, the Middle East and North Africa has the second highest rate of usage, with an average of over 60 per 100,000 Internet users utilizing the service. Tor is particularly popular in Israel, which accounts for more Tor users than India, while having less than 4% of its Internet users. The service is also very popular in Iran, which accounts for the largest number of Tor users outside Europe and the United States, and counts 50% more users than the United Kingdom, despite having only one third of its Internet population.

The geography of Tor tells us much about potentials for anonymity on the Internet. As ever more governments seek to control and censor online activities, users face a choice to either perform their connected activities in ways that adhere to official policies, or to use anonymity to bring about a freer and more open Internet.