Reviewing the Tor Browser for Android: The good, the less good, and nothing ugly!
We all, most of us anyway, know about the The Tor Project. Started in 2002, Tor (originally The Onion Router) was an ambitious but necessary project to override network surveillance and enable anonymous communication. It protects you from traffic analysis, digital profiling, upselling, and upholds your freedom and privacy. This is done by using an overlay network to conceal your location and websites you visit. If you’re to explain this to an 8, or 80 year old, show them this vid.
To enable security on Mobile, the good samaritans from the Tor community have recently launched an open source Tor Browser for Android. While there have been attempts to make this in the past, this one – currently in Alpha – is the only official mobile browser supported by the Tor Project. Let’s take a closer look at it.
The Good: What’s awesome about it
For starters, the browser provides unfailing privacy and security. When it comes to tracking, surveillance and censorship of your internet footprints, it has your back.
The browser will block third party ad trackers. So no more (or a lot less) of those annoying remarketing ads via Google Display Network. This in itself is reason enough to install the Tor Browser for Android. The browser connect you to internet through Tor network. This means there are thousands of overlay network points which make you practically untraceable as there’s no one centralized entity, or a point of failure.
The Tor browser for Android deletes your browser history right after your session is over. It even isolates your cookies. The modifications ensure protection and anonymity on both device and network level. This means trackers and advertisers can’t follow you as you move from one site to another on the browser.
You’ll be able to access most websites that block Tor connections through a CAPTCHA code to prove that you’re a human. This is a website level feature, but is seeing increased adoption worldwide, a good development for the Tor browser. Having said that, some networks might be slow and some might not load depending on your security level. That’s however is a caveat for all Tor applications on all platforms.
The Less Good: What has to get better (and it will)
So far, there are two key things Tor Browser for Android to solve. Firstly, the current alpha release requires Orbot to connect their browser to the android. The developers have assured to remove this dependency in the next stable release. This should happen fairly soon as Tor has announced to end support for Orbot in early 2019. Secondly, the security slider under ‘Security Settings’ is visible after restarting the next. This too will disappear with the next release. While the browser gets feature-complete, remember, this is and will remain the only official Tor browser for Android and like all Tor projects, the developers are forthcoming and honest about the updates you’d see in the upcoming releases.
While Tor browser for Android has a long way to go, the app is clearly doing things right. It will definitely be the only browser (and way) to access internet anonymously once Orfox is phased out next year. Nevertheless, if you’re a journalist, an ‘explorer of devious topics’, or a whistleblower in making, Tor browser for Android should already be up and running on your Android smartphone.