For those who are privacy conscious or live in countries where the Facebook service is censored, the social media giant’s Android application has long been unusable. This has changed with the latest version of the Facebook app, which includes the option for the app to route its traffic through the Tor network.
The experimental new feature can be enabled through the app’s settings, depending on a separate app called Orbot to function as a proxy for routing the traffic through the Tor network. Due to the nature of the Tor network, enabling this feature does have the side effect of disabling the use of push notifications. As long as a user makes sure to manually check for updates frequently, this is hardly a big loss for the privacy aware.
Tor’s service works by routing traffic through a series of random nodes or relays in its network. This ensures that no one system in the chain can know the true origin and source of the packets sent and received. Only the initial node will know the packet’s source and the final node sending the packet onto the public internet, or exit point, knows the destination. The packets are also encrypted in such a way that the nodes are unable to snoop on the data sent. The value of this approach is that it masks the sites and services that you are accessing from your ISP and any nodes en-route as well as hiding your IP from the destination.
Facebook’s site has been available via Tor since 2014 via facebookcorewwwi.onion, a version of the site only accessible through the Tor service. Traffic to this address never passes back to the public internet to reach the regular Facebook site, so no Tor exit points or public internet relays are traversed. Sadly the app currently relies on Facebook’s public servers even when Tor is enabled, but it is to be expected that support for their .onion Tor service is in the app’s future.