The Deep Web and the Dark Web – Why Lawyers Need to Be Informed

January 30, 2015

internet webPublic interest in the “Deep Web” and the “Dark Web” has increased exponentially, from 8 to 100 and 25 to 100, respectively, on Google Trends from 2011 to now.  Silk Road and Bitcoin-related arrests brought global attention to the Dark Web, the Web space in which these events primarily occurred, and also to the broader sphere of the Deep Web of which the Dark Web is only a small part.

The Deep Web includes but is not synonymous with Dark Web. The relationships between and among the various “levels” of the Web are illustrated below:


deep web dark web

Lawyers need to know precisely what aspect of the Web is involved in a particular case to understand how best to access the target information as well as to know what types of relief might be available if a civil or criminal wrong has occurred.  Research in the Deep Web and Dark Web requires considerable technical facility and, in general, like the legacy patent and trademark search methodologies with which the intellectual property bar is familiar (e.g., CompuMark and Thomson Reuters Patent Search), warrants the engagement of specialized firms that deploy highly-developed methodologies to ensure accurate and thorough results. In order for counsel to know about what services they are seeking to engage, and what type of information is available, they should familiarize themselves with the terms and principles associated with the Deep Web and Dark Web, and also familiarize themselves with the Deep Web and Dark Web spaces themselves.

The generally-accepted use of the the term “Deep Web” refers to “the vast portion of the Web that is beyond the reach of the typical ‘surface Web’ crawlers because it is not indexed by standard search engines.”  The Deep Web contains vast expanses of hard-to-reach business intelligence information – a goldmine of data not precisely unavailable to the general public, but virtually unavailable unless the searcher is well-informed. The sources of most Deep Web information are readily identifiable, insofar as the websites that access the databases being crawled in a Deep Web search can be identified at the surface-level. The data at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office site and the U.S. Copyright Office site, are stored in the Deep Web, with no rendering of listings of the actual core content (the patent, trademark and copyright applications, registrations, and related administrative data pertaining to each) without using each office’s special search interfaces. The Dark Web is a hidden part of the Deep Web that uses anonymity tools like Tor and I2P to hide their IP address.”  Often incorrectly synonymized with the Deep Web or the Darknet, the Dark Web is where most of the highly publicized articles such as Silk Road and Bitcoin occur. However as recently suggested in the Financial Times, “[r]eading about the [D]ark [W]eb is more than just a cheap thrill. Businesses would do well to understand more about it.”

The “Deep Web” is that portion of World Wide Web content that is not indexed by standard search engines.

The Deep Web also includes the Dark Web, the latter of which is only accessible using special browsers such as Tor.  Tor is “a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet.”

My next blog will delve into the Deep Web and the Dark Web in more detail, including explaining the Darknet that in-part lies within the Dark Web and elaborating on the additional intellectual property information that can be found within each.