Comcast has inspired a new round of complaints after reports surfaced that its agents were threatening to terminate the service of subscribers due to the use of Tor, a browser that endows people with anonymity on the Internet.
The allegations first came through the subreddit /darknetmarkets. A Comcast agent named Jeremy was said to have warned a subscriber against using Tor, calling it an "illegal service." The employee also said that continued use of the Tor browser may lead to termination of service since it violates Comcast's user policies.
In the United States, downloading Tor is not illegal. There are about 1.2 million users of the software. The browser, which shot up in popularity after spying revelations from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, theoretically keeps Internet activity from prying eyes.
"Today I received a phone call from an agent from Comcast telling me that I need to stop using the illegal service Tor; as it is against the contract I have with CC (Comcast), and it promotes illegal activities with such services as 'The Silk Road, an underground market, used to distribute drugs and contraband, which is against state and federal law,'" the Reddit post read.
"I am quoting this f***er directly. I say first that Tor isn't illegal, in any fashion under US law. And I asked to hear the statement in the contract saying otherwise. He kept on repeating himself, asking what was I using Tor for, and that I can't use P2P services either. I don't download illegal things with any P2P software."
Thinking the call was a prank, the user called Comcast the next day. Another agent, named Kelly, said that her company takes privacy matters seriously and suggested taking off the browser from the computer. "Users who try to use anonymity, or cover themselves up on the Internet, are usually doing things that aren't, so to speak, legal. We have the right to terminate, fine, or suspend your account at any time due to you violating our contract/rules," the employee said.
Comcast has responded to the report, saying that the allegations are "totally inaccurate." "Comcast is not asking customers to stop using Tor, or any other browser for that matter. We have no policy against Tor, or any other browser or software. Customers are free to use their Xfinity Internet service to visit any website, use any app, and so forth," Jason Livingood, the company's vice president for Internet services, said in a press release.
It's still not clear which side is actually telling the truth. However, Comcast does have a history of discriminating against certain types of Internet traffic. The company was found throttling traffic from file-sharing services like BitTorrent in 2007. This was confirmed by tests conducted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. When the report first surfaced, Comcast denied the allegations.