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Tor's First Crowdfunding Campaign



When we launched this first crowd funding campaign, we weren’t sure what would happen. We knew we wanted to diversify our funding sources; crowd funding gives us flexibility to do what we think is most important, when we want to do it. It allows us to fund the development of powerful new privacy tools. Or make the ones we have stronger and more resilient. Or pay for things we need like a funded help desk or an Arabic version of our web site.

But we didn’t know if people who like Tor would actually invest in our independence.

Now we do.

Together, our community has contributed $205,874 from 5,265 people to support Tor in this first crowdfunding campaign. We are so excited.

What we’ve seen, we think, is our community in action—our whole community finding ways to support us—by making a donation, or by sending us a bug bounty as GitHub hackers did. By making a matching donation, or just pinging their friends to help out.

Following our theme "This Is What a Tor Supporter Looks Like," you sent in photos of yourselves in Tor t-shirts doing back bends or teaching your daughters how to use Tor browser, or covering your face to preserve your anonymity but trumpet your support for Tor.

You sent fundraising notes to giant email lists. You tweeted screenshots of your donations. You bragged about your Tor relays (thank you) to inspire others. Some of you pointed out that Tor has saved your life.

The international Tor community rose up to support Tor’s independence in every way it could think of. And independence is power. Power to defend the rights of human rights activists. Power to defend the privacy of all of us.

Even though we’re a privacy organization, we found out what a Tor supporter looks like. It's someone who takes action to support their right to privacy.

Thank you.

Our deepest thanks to Tor’s wonderful champions, who put on the T-shirt first and took the plunge to support Tor in our first-ever campaign:

Laura Poitras

Roger Dingledine

Amanda Palmer and baby Anthony

Nick Merrill

Andy Bichlbaum

Molly Crabapple

Rabbi Rob and Lauren Thomas

Shari Steele

Cory Doctorow

Ben Wizner

Daniel Ellsberg and Patricia Marx Ellsberg

Alison Macrina

Edward Snowden

Giordano Nanni

Susan Landau

Ethan Zuckerman

Jacob Appelbaum

By Kate Krauss, for Tor's fundraising team:

Isabela Bagueros, Juris Vetra, Leiah Jansen, Mike Perry, Shari Steele, Sue Gardner, Katherine Bergeron, Nima Fatemi, Sebastian Hahn, Roger Dingledine, Nick Mathewson, Ben Moskowitz, Jacob Appelbaum, Katina Bishop, Colin Childs, and Kate Krauss.

Transparency, Openness, and our 2014 Financials

After completing the standard audit, our 2014 state and federal tax filings are available. We publish all of our related tax documents because we believe in transparency.

Tor's annual revenue in 2014 held steady at about $2.5 million. Tor's budget is modest considering the number of people involved and the impact we have. And it is dwarfed by the budgets that our adversaries are spending to make the world a more dangerous and less free place.

To achieve our goals, which include scaling our user base, we fund about 20 contractors and staff members (some part time, some full time) and rely on thousands of volunteers to do everything from systems administration to outreach. Our relay operators are also volunteers, and in 2014 we grew their number to almost 7,000 — helped along by the Electronic Frontier Foundation's wonderful Tor Challenge, which netted 1,635 relays. Our user base is up to several million people each day.

Transparency doesn't just mean that we show you our source code (though of course we do). The second layer to transparency is publishing specifications to explain what we thought we implemented in the source code. And the layer above that is publishing design documents and research papers to explain why we chose to build it that way, including analyzing the security implications and the tradeoffs of alternate designs. The reason for all these layers is to help people evaluate every level of our system: whether we chose the right design, whether we turned that design into a concrete plan that will keep people safe, and whether we correctly implemented this plan. Tor gets a huge amount of analysis and attention from professors and university research groups down to individual programmers around the world, and this consistent peer review is one of our core strengths over the past decade.

As we look toward the future, we are grateful for our institutional funding, but we want to expand and diversify our funding too. The recent donations campaign is a great example of our vision for future fundraising. We are excited about the future, and we invite you to join us: donate, volunteer, and run a Tor relay.

This Is What a Tor Supporter Looks Like – Jacob Appelbaum

Jacob Appelbaum

Jacob Appelbaum says that a number of Tor's development projects are inspired by the needs of the people that Tor works with around the world. Many of these people are working on the front lines of human rights and political activism.

“When working with Laura Poitras it became clear that there were key areas where improving her ability to use anonymity and encryption software would greatly strengthen her ability to continue her work. We brought some of these concerns and ideas into the initial development of Torbirdy and other Tor development efforts. Often my role is to understand needs of users in a given terrain of struggle and to help with the creation of prototypes to assist them.”

"This is all a team effort - many of our prototypes go on to become full fledged projects. The people involved in the Tor Project are spread across the world and put in an amazing amount of effort."

Both Appelbaum and Tor co-founder Roger Dingledine have taught activists around the world to use Tor. An an example, in Tunisia, they taught people to use encryption tools as part of a larger strategy. The tools themselves are part of a way of thinking about not only security and technology but also about operational security issues more generally. The tactics required to resist mass surveillance, targeted surveillance and repression generally are not merely technical: they are also social, economic and political.

Appelbaum and colleagues have also worked with hundreds of people from around the globe who are fighting for basic human rights in their respective countries, including lawyers, politicians, human rights activists, technologists, medical doctors, journalists and academics. The stakes are sometimes high - many people they have worked with are in danger through extreme surveillance because of their work, and for some, learning to use anonymity and encryption tools like Tor could literally save their lives.

In his context working with and as a journalist, Appelbaum says: “One of the things we’ve found and that we've published, which is good news, is that when the NSA does intercepts on people and they see encrypted messages from their encrypted Jabber chats… they say, `Sorry, can’t decrypt this – it’s off the record.’ That’s great. It means that we are correct: math constrains these systems of surveillance, which include and promote systems of violence and political oppression. Mathematics actually stops them and forces them to move from passive to active actions. It means that we can use cryptography to protect ourselves and to move ourselves into a world where attacks become detectable. Tor and other Free Software encryption tools such as Off-The-Record messaging, Signal and many others aid us in stopping these systems of violence and political oppression from growing.”

Appelbaum goes on to add, "The Tor Project is very lucky to have such a passionate community of developers, relay operators, and volunteers. So much of what we do depends on the generosity of our surrounding community that I am often humbled by their accomplishments. I look forward to campaigns like this one helping to create a more sustainable Tor, so that we can better support and honor the contributions and hard work of everyone involved."

Please join Jacob in supporting the Tor Project today!

Tor Browser 5.5a6-hardened is released

A new hardened Tor Browser release is available. It can be found in the 5.5a6-hardened distribution directory and on the download page for hardened builds.

This release features an important fix for a crash bug in one of our patches. All users are encouraged to update immediately as this bug is probably exploitable if Javascript is enabled. The bug was not exploitable at High security level, or on non-HTTPS websites at Medium-High security level.

Note: There is no incremental update from 5.5a5-hardened available due to bug 17858. We plan to have this fixed for the next release. The internal updater should work, though, doing a complete update.

Here is the complete changelog since 5.5a5-hardened:

  • All Platforms
    • Update NoScript to 2.9
    • Update HTTPS Everywhere to 5.1.2
    • Bug 17931: Tor Browser crashes in LogMessageToConsole()
    • Bug 17875: Discourage editing of torrc-defaults

Tor Browser 5.5a6 is released

A new alpha Tor Browser release is available for download in the 5.5a6 distribution directory and on the alpha download page.

This release features an important fix for a crash bug in one of our patches. All users are encouraged to update immediately as this bug is probably exploitable if JavaScript is enabled. The bug was not exploitable at High security level, or on non-HTTPS websites at Medium-High security level.

In the past, signing Windows .exe files on a Linux machine caused verification errors on some Windows 10 systems. This should be fixed by adding the intermediate certificate in the signing process now.

Here is the complete changelog since 5.5a5:

  • All Platforms
    • Update NoScript to 2.9
    • Update HTTPS Everywhere to 5.1.2
    • Bug 17931: Tor Browser crashes in LogMessageToConsole()
    • Bug 17875: Discourage editing of torrc-defaults
    • Bug 17870: Add intermediate certificate for authenticode signing

Tor Browser 5.0.7 is released

Update: Clarify that the crash bug requires Javascript to be exercised.

A new stable release for Tor Browser is available from the Tor Browser Project page and also from our distribution directory.

This release features an important fix for a crash bug in one of our patches. All users are encouraged to update immediately as this bug is probably exploitable if Javascript is enabled. The bug was not exploitable at High security level, or on non-HTTPS websites at Medium-High security level.

Here is the complete changelog since 5.0.6:

  • All Platforms
    • Update NoScript to 2.9
    • Update HTTPS Everywhere to 5.1.2
    • Bug 17931: Tor Browser crashes in LogMessageToConsole()
    • Bug 17875: Discourage editing of torrc-defaults

This is What a Tor Supporter Looks Like: Ethan Zuckerman

Ethan Zuckerman

“I'm a Tor supporter for a very simple reason: my colleague's lives depend on it.

I'm the co-founder of Global Voices, an international community of bloggers, reporters, translators and activists dedicated to building a more inclusive picture of the world. Members of our community are located in more than 100 nations, and many members of our team live in countries where freedom of expression is under threat.

Some Global Voices members need to maintain anonymity so they can report from countries where their words could lead to imprisonment or worse. These threats are not imaginary - four members of our team were incarcerated for more than a year in Ethiopia, and our members in Bangladesh fear for their safety when they write about killings of secular bloggers, presumably by government-backed extremists.

We teach everyone who works with Global Voices about digital security, and Tor is a cornerstone of the toolkit we teach our authors and translators to use. In countries that monitor web traffic closely, frequently connecting to the Global Voices website could signal that a user is a Global Voices contributor. Correctly using Tor allows our authors in repressive nations to contribute to our site without revealing to local authorities that they are writing for Global Voices. We quite literally could not do our job in many nations we work in without Tor.

While financial support is critical for Tor to continue developing its tools, and while the real heroes of the Tor project are the thousands of volunteers who donate bandwidth and time to maintain Tor exit nodes, there's another way to help Tor: use Tor. Here's what I mean: in the most repressive countries we work in, we cannot use Tor because simply using strong encryption is so uncommon that governments seek out users of these tools. For Tor to be useful in an extremely repressive country like Ethiopia, it needs to be normal, as normal as HTTPS has become in the past few years. When you use Tor to do something quotidian, you're providing cover traffic for people who need to use Tor to do something extraordinary. So give, run an exit node, but at the very least, help make Tor utterly ordinary by using it as often as you can.”

-Ethan Zuckerman

This is What a a Tor Supporter Looks Like: Susan Landau

Susan Landau

“Communications metadata is remarkably revelatory. Just knowing what number you communicated with, when, and for how long can reveal whether you are having a flare-up of MS, seeking an abortion, or thinking about growing marijuana plants commercially. All of this comes from the numbers you call, and not what you say. It's why keeping communications metadata private is so important.

“Tor protects such data. It's not just journalists who need such privacy. It's human rights workers (that's why the State Department supports Tor), law-enforcement investigators checking out questionable sites, the businessperson collecting data to make decisions, the worker checking AIDS information or Alcoholics Anonymous over lunch hour on her private device but using her company's ISP. In a world of increasing surveillance, there's increasing need for Tor.

“I first began using Tor regularly in 2012 when I taught a freshman seminar in privacy. For one assignment I asked my students to try Tor and write a customer review. Tor was very clunky then. The fact that you couldn't simultaneously use Tor and the Firefox browser seriously diminished usability for me.

“Tor has much improved. The program runs faster, it is more secure, and there's greater functionality, including the ability to simultaneously use Tor and Firefox. I am delighted, but more is needed. We live in a world of pervasive surveillance, and Tor provides an essential service. Give generously and give often so that we can protect a modicum of private space in our increasingly public world. The privacy you protect may be your own.”

—Susan Landau

Support Tor Today!

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