In the quest to lessen its reliance on grants from the U.S. government, the Tor Project began its first crowdfunding campaign back in November. That initial funding drive is now over with the organization announcing that it brought in just over $200,000 in donations — $205,874 from 5,265 donors, to be precise — over the six-week period.
Tor — which uses anonymous, volunteer-based servers to provide a more secure Internet experience — has always been open to donations, but this time around it mounted a more public campaign with a focus on its most prominent users, including NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who explained why they value the service.
The Tor Project recently revealed that its annual revenue was $2.5 million in 2014, however most of that money came from the government. The organization said in filings that federal grants accounted for 75 percent of its 2014 revenue. That’s lower than in 2013, when grants were 90 percent of its income. Tor is likely to continue to rely on grants for the bulk of its funding for some time, but the crowdfunding push and increased visibility is aimed at increasing donations to offset that somewhat and give it resources for additional projects.
“We knew we wanted to diversify our funding sources; crowd funding gives us flexibility to do what we think is most important, when we want to do it. It allows us to fund the development of powerful new privacy tools. Or make the ones we have stronger and more resilient. Or pay for things we need like a funded help desk or an Arabic version of our web site,” the organization said in a blog post.
As we wrote back in November when this donation campaign kicked off, there’s tension between the Tor Project and authorities, despite the fact that Tor routing was initially developed as a U.S. Navy project and was first funded by DARPA. A number of reports last year suggested that the FBI compensated researchers at Carnegie Mellon with $1 million for working on ways to crack Tor. The university denied the “inaccurate” claims, but the link was enough to raise suspicion among the cybersecurity community.
In other Tor-related news this week, Facebook expanded its support for Tor to cover Android. The social network giant first offered support for the project in 2014, when it opened its own Tor address: facebookcorewwwi.onion.