The web that is indexed by Google is just a small portion of the information that is available online. The “deep web” is a layer of websites that are out of view of search engines. This private under-layer of deep web websites can be a breeding ground of criminal activity. Websites like Silk Road operating on the deep web have been shut down by the FBI because of illegal activity. So, this raises the question, “Is it illegal to surf the deep web?”
To explore this question we will look at the legality of how you get on the deep web and what you do on the deep web.
Legal to Get on the Deep Web?
The deep web is a hidden online world masked by a universe of code. It is made up of billions of sites that provide various types of information that is typically intended to be found only if you know where to look. Some individuals have estimated that the Deep Web is upwards to 500,000 times the size of the “Surface Web” (the sites that search engines index).
Many use Tor Software in order to get onto the deep web. It is not the only way to get on but it is probably the most user-friendly way to do so. Tor software takes your internet connection and redirects it through various different connection points from all over the world. After the Tor software sufficiently hides your original internet access point, it will deliver you to your desired website.
Tor Software is not illegal to use. It is merely a software that provides a means of keeping your identity safe, which is not illegal to do. Tor Software has been used, however, to perform illegal activities because of its ability to keep the user’s identity secure. It is really how you use Tor Software that will dictate whether you are doing something illegal or not.
What You Do on the Deep Web
Much of the deep web is fairly benign. Organizations like NASA and LexisNexis keep their databases on the deep web. The deep web also consists of various companies’ and academic institutes’ internal networks. In short, every page that is not indexed by search engines is part of the deep web.
However, there is a whole world of the deep web that is used to perform illegal activities. This section of the deep web is otherwise known as the “Darknet.” The Darknet is a quasi-affiliated community where illegal services are peddled. Activities such as hit man hiring, drug sales and human experimentation can all be found in the Darknet. This developed underworld of illegal activity has put Tor under the microscope for allegedly facilitating illegal activity by providing its users anonymity.
Tor does not condone the illegal activity, however, it is there if you go looking for it. This may not come as any surprise, but illegal activity, whether done in the real world or in the cyber world is still a crime. There is a chance that you might not get caught because of the identity protection that Tor offers but law enforcement is not far behind these days.
There are some websites for anonymous discussion forums for victims of abuse, revolutionary book clubs and spelunking that can be found on the deep web. However, there are many opportunities to get yourself into a lot of trouble. If you are looking for trouble on the deep web you will likely find it, so unless you know what legal motivations you might have for keeping your identity safe, it is probably best that you don’t venture in.
Matt Pfau is an attorney and founding partner at the law firm Parry & Pfau. Matt has a background in business consulting, estate planning, business start-ups and bankruptcy and is licensed to practice in both Nevada and California. A partner in the firm Parry & Pfau, he can be reached at 702-912-4451 or [email protected].