Tor Project: Anonymity ain't free, folks. Pony up

Privacy network passes around the hat

The programmers behind internet privacy tool Tor are asking supporters to donate money to bankroll future development.

The software project has kicked off a fundraising effort to enhance the online anonymizing network, which is used by whistleblowers, journalists, criminals, normal folk, privacy-conscious netizens, and many other people.

The Tor network works by cloaking the public IP address from which you're accessing the internet, and allows so-called hidden websites and services to operate within the network – out of reach of the public internet – for maximum privacy.

Tor fans can donate one-time cash sums or set up a monthly recurring donation. In addition to Paypal-based online donations, the Tor Project said it will accept money via Dwolla, Bitcoin, and old-fashioned check, cash, money order, and bank transfer.

The fundraising drive should, if successful, end Tor's reliance on university grants and government handouts.

To help further the campaign, Tor enlisted the help of Citizen Four director Laura Poitras, who credited Tor with helping her stay in contact with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"There are so many reasons ... that we want to protect our privacy and not broadcast every move we make online," Poitras said in her endorsement. "Tor is an essential tool that is needed by people to do what they do."

According to Tor, its major backers in this year alone have included the US Department of State, Reddit, the National Science Foundation (via four separate US university donations), Radio Free Asia, and what the group only calls "an anonymous North American ISP."

Tor also said that it has received some 4,300 individual donations this year as well.

Though the Tor Project has found itself at odds with the US government for criminal activity taking place on the network, Tor has its roots in the US Department of Defense, and DARPA was listed among its top donors from 2001 to 2006. ®

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