I run a TOR-server. Anonymity is not a crime. There are a million reason why you want to stay anonymous on the interweb. Lately there was quite a hassle about seized TOR-servers in Germany and I was waiting for my server to be seized too. Didn’t happen until now. Something quite unexpected happened instead.
On the 28th of December I got a letter from the BKA (Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office). The content of the letter was something like that:
“The owner of the IP-Address $my_servers_address is suspected of posession of child pornography. Hereby we order you to tell us the real name of the owner and disclose all relevant logfiles according to §113 TKG in the time of the 26th of October, 7:00 PST. We also demand the names of all your customers which use your service and we inform you that disclosing our request to your customers may be punishable.”
Obviously I was a bit scared about the “the owner of the IP-address part” so I hired a lawyer. The overall text was also a bit far-off for my taste, but whatever. My lawyer sent out a fax yesterday to the BKA asking if I, as his client, am a suspect or a witness. He also stated that I’m running a TOR-server and that no relevant log-files according to §113 TKG exist. In case that I’m a suspect he asked for all the files dealing with the investigation.
That was last night, today, about 20 hours later, we already got an reply. The BKA acknowledged, that they understood my lawyer’s statement that the TOR-server does not create relevant logfiles and claimed that this information is enough for their ongoing investigations. Furthermore they say that they need no further “statements” from my side. (which can be read as thanks, we’re fine, but who knows…)
Hm, they finally seem to have come to their senses. They really scared the shit out of my wife and me, believe me. When I started running a dedicated TOR-server I had a chat with my wife and explained her what I’m up to, what TOR is and what consequences it might have – she never thought that this case would ever occur.
I have only two possible explanations why they wrote the letter in that way. Either they thought that I rented the server to someone else – doing business with that dedicated server – or they just wanted to spread fear among the German TOR-operators. Could be either way. However, they were quite polite, not threatening in a direct way. But enough to make me call a lawyer.
However, this is rather an improvement compared to what happened in the last couple of months, LEAs seizing random server without thinking. This LEA thought before taking action, followed the way of investigation what would be obvious to everyone.
A very warm Thank You very Much to Dr. Michael Stehmann, my lawyer.
TOR-operators in Germany: Don’t let the LEAs scare you. Remember: It’s not you. It’s criminals abusing your service. You’re not the criminals, it’s them. And don’t let the “If you’ve nothing to hide”-argument bother you. It’s us, the citizen, to observe the state, not the state to watch on us. And a hammer doesn’t make the tools-dealer a murder.