"We believe people should have the same expectations of privacy online as they have in the real world," says Shava Narad, executive director of the Tor Project, explaining the impetus behind Tor.

"For everyday use, this means being able to speak in a public forum, say, without it being on the permanent record that might influence your employers for the rest of time."

While widespread adoption of Tor might appear to pose a stumbling block to certain types of investigations, many experts say the impact is not likely to be significant.

"From the law enforcement side, does it give me pause or concern? Not really," says Andy Spruill, a former law enforcement officer, and currently director of West Coast and Pacific Rim operatons for Guidance Software's Professional Services Division and a certified computer forensic examiner.

Marcus Sachs of SRI International agrees, explaining that the project illustrates the greater trend of security experts learning to make security and privacy demands work together.

"I think that a lot of fear has been overcome as both parties begin to technically understand what's at play, and as both parties become better aware of what's meant by privacy in cyberspace."

In fact, not only are many government, military and law enforcement organizations unopposed to The Tor Project, some openly endorse it. The project itself was actually borne out of the minds of military developers seeking better ways to roam online environs undetected.

"The original design was developed by the Naval Research Lab here in the U.S., which realized that an all-military anonymity network wouldn't lend much anonymity to military personnel, so they released it into the wild, so to speak, as open source," Nerad says. "Today, military, security, and law enforcement personnel use Tor all over the world."

— Ericka Chickowski