Jacob Appelbaum Has Allegedly Engaged in Sexual Misconduct for Over a Decade

By William Turton on at

New stories of Jacob Applebaum’s alleged sexual misconduct have surfaced since the developer and well-known computer security and privacy advocate stepped down from his staff position at the Tor Project last week.

Last night, Slack security developer Leigh Honeywell posted her account of sexual abuse she experienced while in a relationship with him. “A number of people are now coming forward with details of the long record of sexual misconduct committed by Jacob Appelbaum,” Honeywell said in the statement. “The stories I have read are entirely consistent with my own experiences being sexually involved with Jacob in 2006-2007.”

From Honeywell’s post:

In that time we spent together, he violated boundaries I set as though they were a game, particularly at times when I was intoxicated. There were a number of times I felt afraid and violated during interactions with Jacob. Being involved with him was a steady stream of humiliations small and large as he mistreated me in front of others and over-shared about our intimate interactions with friends who were often also professional colleagues.

For example, on several occasions in professional situations, he told other people that I was good at a particular sex act. On another occasion where my primary romantic partner at the time, Paul Wouters, was also present, Jacob ignored my use of a safe word when his sexual behavior turned into violent behavior that violated my limits. Paul and I both had to repeatedly tell Jacob to stop, and the experience was profoundly upsetting. I believe that one of the common elements of Jacob’s abusive behavior is humiliating one or another member of a couple in front of the other – as other accounts of his actions are published, that is something worth watching out for.

Prior to Honeywell’s post, Appelbaum denied the growing number of allegations, saying that a “calculated and targeted attack has been launched to spread vicious and spurious allegations against me.” Appelbaum also said that the “accusations of criminal sexual misconduct against me are entirely false”.

As Gizmodo reported yesterday, Appelbaum has been accused of sexual misconduct dating back several years, at least as far back as an incident where he allegedly tried to take upskirt photos of women at a hacking conference in 2007.

Emerson Tan, a computer security expert involved in the Tor community, told Gizmodo that Appelbaum would also make lewd comments and publicly claim to have engaged in threesomes with various members of the privacy community. “It’s like, what the fuck is wrong with you man?” Tan told Gizmodo. “You know, you’re really very very wrong. Several people at that camp told him no photos and the rest of it and he doesn’t care. Several people told him trying to take pictures of breasts and upskirt photos and the rest of it is unacceptable, and he doesn’t care.”

More allegations against Appelbaum came earlier today from Violet Blue, a journalist who covers hacking and privacy.

The recent flood of accusations surfaced after a website appeared last week featuring mostly anonymous accounts of alleged sexual abuse, including rape, by Appelbaum. Following the launch of the site, the Tor Project released a lengthy statement in which the group acknowledged rumours of sexual misconduct, and said they were investigating the issue.

“These types of allegations were not entirely new to everybody at Tor; they were consistent with rumors some of us had been hearing for some time,” Shari Steele, Tor’s executive director said. “That said, the most recent allegations are much more serious and concrete than anything we had heard previously. We are deeply troubled by these accounts.”

Despite being kicked off of the Tor Project, Appelbaum is still a prominent player in the digital privacy and security community. In addition to frequently giving talks at hacking conferences, he’s also on the technical advisory board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

According to several sources close to the situation, there is currently an internal debate going on at the foundation about whether to remove Applebaum from the board.