She brings with her more than two decades of advocacy for individuals' online rights (pre-dating the World Wide Web) with 15 years of that spent as executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which nurtured the Tor Project from its infancy in 2004. Under Steele's leadership, the EFF grew from a five-person organization to one that included a team of more than 60 advocates, technologists and attorneys. The group's budget grew from $500,000 to almost $9 million annually with membership leaping from 2,000 paying members to 25,000.
Steele is looking to bring the same kind of growth and functionality to the Tor Project.
"The Tor Project is made up of a bunch of brilliant techies trying to protect rights in the digital world. I'm delighted that I can use my experience building and growing an Internet freedom NGO to help make Tor more operationally sound,” Steele wrote in a blog post. “I couldn't walk away from this amazing opportunity to help grow the movement by making Tor bigger, stronger and more sustainable."
The organization's co-founders Roger Dingledine and Nick Mathewson will stay on as board members and help throughout the transition to Steele's leadership. The duo also will get back to their previous roles as technologists.
"Tor's technical side is world-class, and I am excited that Shari will help the organizational side of Tor become great, too,” Dingledine, Tor Project interim executive director, wrote in a blog post. “We've needed a leader who can manage people, who knows how a non-profit should function, and who has great contacts with donors. Tor is part of a larger family of civil liberties organizations, and this move makes it clearer that Tor is a main figure in that family.”