"Librarians see the value as soon as you say ‘privacy protecting technology.'"

Crypto nerds have now firmly set their sights on libraries, with the ultimate goal of setting up Tor exit relays in as many of these ubiquitous public institutions as possible. As of now, only about 1,000 exit relays exist worldwide. If this plan is successful, it could vastly increase the scope and speed of the famed anonymizing network.

"We love this—we hope that more libraries and news outlets will start hosting Tor exit nodes," Kate Krauss, a spokeswoman for the Tor Project, told Ars. "It's a bold statement for free speech."

The plan is being executed by the Library Freedom Project (LFP), a new group trying to get American libraries to incorporate more privacy tools into their everyday operations as a way to protect patrons from aggressive snooping. The group’s new campaign was announced earlier this week.

Librarians, and in particular the American Library Association, have long been advocates of privacy and access to information.

"Librarians see the value as soon as you say ‘privacy protecting technology,’" Alison Macrina of the LFP told Ars via encrypted chat. "When we get into the basics of free software and cryptography, they are hooked."

For now, the LFP has only managed to set up a middle relay—one of the three major types of relays in a library in New Hampshire, but hopes that after further testing it can be upgraded to an exit relay in about a month.

As the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains on its website, a middle relay passes traffic to another relay before departing the Tor network on the exit relay.

"Because Tor traffic exits through these relays, the IP address of the exit relay is interpreted as the source of the traffic," the group notes. "If a malicious user employs the Tor network to do something that might be objectionable or illegal, the exit relay may take the blame. People who run exit relays should be prepared to deal with complaints, copyright takedown notices, and the possibility that their servers may attract the attention of law enforcement agencies. If you aren't prepared to deal with potential issues like this, you might want to run a middle relay instead."

The LFP suggests that any library interested in participating should first consider its questionnaire, and then contact Alison Macrina directly atalison@libraryfreedomproject.org.