The internet is divided into two hemispheres: the surface web, which is the one we are all familiar with, and the dark web, also known as the deep web, which search engines can't see and many of us have never ventured into. What exists in this unseen deep web includes opportunities for individuals to operate without concern that their locations or identities will be immediately apparent to others.
Yet, the dark web may not offer as much anonymity as many would hope. The government has been known to use questionable tactics to uncover identities and accuse people of white collar crimes ranging from child pornography to fraud and identity theft.
What is the dark web?
The dark web is similar to a government facility which only allows special access to those with clearance for entering the building. This clearance assures those within the building that they arrived without being followed or identified by anyone else. Sophisticated encryption makes it possible for those entering the dark web to hide their online tracks.
Communicating via the dark web allows anonymity, uninhibited by the watchful eye of government surveillance. What's more is the information submitted to various sites is freshly encrypted with each intermediary checkpoint along the way. This makes original identity extremely difficult to trace.
But that also offers a false sense of security.
How the government obtains information
There have been numerous operations where the government has obtained ownership and run websites on the dark web in order to identify visitors and then prosecute them.
In a 2015 sting named "Operation Pacifier," for example, FBI agents took over a child pornography website and used software that allowed them to obtain information from individuals attempting to remain anonymous through the Tor browser.
Two years later, the US Department of Justice and Europol worked together to seize black markets on the dark web. The agencies closed one market and, in doing so, were able to obtain the postal addresses of customers who moved from that market to another, also under government surveillance.
These stings beg the question: Is Internet privacy even possible?
Potential defenses to criminal allegations involving the dark web
Individuals accused of criminal activity on the dark web may be able to defend against their charges by arguing a number of points such as:
- The government obtained evidence against them illegally, or even immorally (government misconduct)
- The government used illegal tactics in conducting their investigation
- The government failed to obtain the proper search warrants
- The government's evidence is inconclusive
The defenses available depend on the specifics of each individual case. If you face prosecution for action on the dark web, it is important to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. If you are merely wondering about the dark web and your anonymity, it is a good time to question whether you should proceed under the assumption that your activities are safe from government interference.