Layers of security for repositories: onion services, privacy, and intellectual freedom in the scholarly commons
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The growth and development of many of our repository services has seen them blossom in recent years. With deposits and usage increasing, the successes of open research and scholarship can certainly be seen to be bearing fruit. However, respecting the intellectual privacy of repository users’ is a core professional duty for library and information workers. In this context, ensuring that data and research outputs made accessible through our repositories are available in a way that allows repository users’ to retain their privacy is essential. Providing basic enhanced information security, such as wrapping repositories in HTTPS, is only a small part of what might be necessary to protect users when they are using our services. A further option that is available is to offer complementary access to our repositories as onion services. Onion services are web services that are accessed using specific software that 'bounces' traffic through multiple encrypted connections to enhance the privacy of users. Configuring repositories as onion services can also help to circumvent academic censorship. The scholarly commons, which our services support, are only as accessible as they permitted to be on the clearnet: powerful stakeholders have the ability to suppress access to resources and thus to censor scholars and other publics from accessing the data and published results of academic research and scholarship. Whilst we are right to celebrate our many historic successes, we must also prepare ourselves for an uncertain future. By looking to a broader range of technical security options that are available to us, library and information workers, repository administrators, open access publishers, and their associated indexing services can work collectively to place intellectual privacy at the centre of the scholarly commons.