Tor User Experience Report

Activists working in dangerous environments often know that they must protect themselves online but fail to do so because the required software is difficult to configure, use, or understand. As a result, many users simply ignore these tools and remain vulnerable to online censorship, surveillance, and attacks.

Many software developers recognize this challenge and are constantly trying to improve the user experience for key information security solutions. This involves conducting interviews with users of different backgrounds and collecting their feedback to build more intuitive software designs. An example of this interactive improvement process is the work of one of the ISC Project’s partners, Cap Solutions, on improving the usability of Tor Browser on Apple’s OSX.

Tor Browser contains public online anonymity software, Tor, which is employed by millions of Internet users worldwide to protect their identity on the web. However, Tor Browser often suffers from “stop gaps,” at which point the user is unable or unsure how to proceed. With the support of a small grant from the ISC Project, developers at CAP Solutions conducted research and usability testing with both technical and non-technical users, and developed a set of recommendations to enhance the user experience of the Tor Browser Bundle.

CAP Solutions’ lead developers, George Rosamond and Jeff Mau, had three goals when they launched this project – to create a Tor interface that lets users know if their online activity is anonymous or not; to simplify downloading, installing, and using Tor Browser without the need to configure or manipulate the tool’s processes; and to educate users about Tor, online anonymity, and its implementation in general. CAP Solutions hopes its recommendations will not only contribute to Tor’s accessibility but also encourage a broader conversation about the usability of online anonymity tools.

Click here to download a copy of CAP Solution’s report.