Anonymous Browser Tor Crowdfunds for Support

Tor crowdfunds for financial support.
Tor crowdfunds for financial support.

The Tor Project is embarking on a crowdfunding campaign through Dec. 31 to help raise awareness, educate and finance the anonymous web browser's operations, raising more than $75,000 since Nov. 23, campaign leader Katina Bishop told SCMagazine.com.

Tor is using the homepage of its browser as the crowdfunding site. Tor is used daily by more than 2 million people and is typically tapped by individuals whose internet usage could place them in danger, such as political activists or muckraking journalists, explained Tor Project spokeswoman Kate Krauss. Consumers interested in protecting their privacy from marketers also use Tor. Its website cites military and business applications as well.

Tor supporters include the likes of Oscar-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, among those cited as “Tor Champions” on the organization's home page, which is accepting financial contributions.

Edward Snowden has a Tor sticker affixed to his laptop, and his legal advisor, Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, on Tuesday joined the site's champions list. “It's not an overstatement to say that secure technology such as Tor has made the ACLU's work with Edward Snowden possible, “Wizer said in a blog on the Tor website.

Tor Project co-founder Roger Dingledine told SCMagazine.com that 82 percent of Tor's users are from outside of the United States. However, the 18 percent of total usage within the U.S. represents the most from one country, and the second largest chunk is Russia, which he suspects is due to the county's censorship activities.

China is further down the list, Dingledine noted, because of the difficulty for Chinese residents to download non-approved browsers. However, the Tor Project offers “censorship circumvention pluggable transports” that allow usage.

A Tor Project board member has established a matching gift of up to $18,000.

Krauss noted that contributors may pay via PayPal, bitcoins, or even send cash to the project's Cambridge, Mass. headquarters, to especially protect their anonymity.

Tor Project's “hidden service” provides another layer of protection for users' identity, a feature particularly useful to dissenters being watched by governments around the world and can freely publish their thoughts, she added.

It's expected that proceeds of the campaign will be used to finance the development of new online tools.

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