The social network most often blamed for destroying privacy as we know it made a surprising move Friday. Facebook enabled support for Tor, a software program that enables people to access the Internet anonymously without revealing their IP address and physical location.
Facebook announced the move in a blog post Friday. Previously the software would not work properly with the site because its security measures interpreted Tor users as potential hackers.
Facebook is the first Certificate Authority site, which is a site that establishes a secure connection with its users, to authorize a connection to Tor.
Users will need to log into Facebook with their real identity but their physical location, online activity and other compromising information will remain encrypted.
An open-source software, Tor, or The Onion Router, was created back in 2002 with the goal of protecting government communications, primarily the U.S. Navy. But the International Business Times reports that many have used Tor to access illegal, online black markets like Agora and the now defunct Silk Road.
Many media outlets are interpreting Facebook's move as a good thing. The Verge explains that "Tor users, some of whom may be using the software to circumvent government censorship or restrictions of the internet in places such as China or Iran, will be able to get onto Facebook reliably and without worrying about leaking their identifying information."
And in addition to letting citizens of China and Iran freely share cat memes, Facebook's move could also help spur social change in oppressive countries.
Fox News: "The whole revolt that we see on the streets now, about 1 million people, a week ago started with a Facebook call."
The Egyptian protestest of 2011, which eventually led to a total revolution, all started with a single Facebook page meant to draw attention to police brutality. Facebook and Twitter were instrumental to organizing the protests.
Also in 2011, a Tunisian man set himself on fire to protest his government's regime. The video spread quickly over social media and eventually led to a spontaneous protest that resulted in Tunisia's president fleeing the country.
Facebook did not elaborate what prompted this decision, but explained in a blog post the company wanted a way for users to access the site securely.
This video includes images from Getty Images.