Tor is transforming. The online-anonymity service is making a concerted effort to find funding sources other than the United States government, a problematic sugar daddy that's bankrolled Tor for years.
The Daily Dot reports that Tor is seeking to diversify funding from sources from around the world and depend less on Uncle Sam. At Tor's biannual meeting in Spain, developers have been brainstorming ways they could bring US government contributions down to below 50 per cent. According to its most recent tax return in 2013, Tor receives over $1.8 million (£1.2m) from the US government—about three-quarters of its total $2.4 (£1.6m) million in annual expenses for that year.
This is no surprise, since Tor was originally developed by the US Naval Research Lab for protecting intelligence dispatches. But those ties to American intelligence agencies aren't doing Tor any favours lately.
After the Snowden leaks, details about the NSA monitoring Tor started scaring people away from the service. Then, an attack reported stripped Tor users of their anonymity. Not even the online black markets that made Tor infamous wanted to use the network anymore. By the time Tor developers were becoming victims of online harassment, it was clearly time for a change.
Combating the public perception of being in bed with the authorities is just one of the many options it makes sense for Tor to find new funding sources. Tor is looking specifically at crowdfunding and lobbying European governments. Neither is bad idea. European governments are more sceptical of US intelligence practices than ever, while crowdfunding could open up the floodgates of funding for Tor. If a smartwatch can get millions' worth of funding from Kickstarter, Tor should be able to raise a couple of million itself.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby; source image via Shutterstock