The “Tor Project” Compelled to Lay Off Staff Due to COVID-19

Written by Bill Toulas
Last updated June 19, 2021

The "Tor Project" announced that they, unfortunately, had to let go of 13 of its otherwise valuable staff members, as the ongoing pandemic has hit them hard financially. The Tor Project is a non-profit organization based in Massachusetts, founded by R. Dingledine and N. Mathewson in 2006 to provide the tools for anonymous internet access. Initially, it was backed financially by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and from then on, various companies, governments, and casual Tor users contributed through donations and kept the project alive. However, the coronavirus lock-down and the resulting global economic decline has taken its toll on the flow of the donations, and so Tor could no longer sustain its manpower size.

Laying off 13 of a total of 35 employees is a shrinkage of 37%, which will leave its marks on the development rates of Tor Project's products very soon. These are the Tor Network, the Tor Browser, and the Orbot proxy. Of course, the Tor Browser is an open-source project (Mozilla Public License), so it has been enjoying contributions from volunteering developers. Still, with the possibility of pauperization hanging above the heads of free-time coders like the sword of Damocles, these have bottomed too.

This comes at a time when accessing the internet anonymously is maybe more important than it ever was. Naturally, one would assume that during a period when we're stuck inside, projects like Tor should receive more love, support, and contributions. Unfortunately, this is not how the world works, and people just hop on at whatever tool is trending without making many considerations about their data privacy. The Tor browser will continue to exist and will still be available, but its development will undoubtedly slow down from now on. This will also affect the numerous projects, operating systems, browsers, and communication tools that use components of the Tor browser or the Tor Network.

Tor is here to protect internet users from oppressive governments, invasive data brokers, and privacy-breaching internet service providers. Achieving this is a continuous war between two sides that change tactics, find vulnerabilities in the enemy's tools, and try to exploit them appropriately. Could this blow mean that Tor will start losing ground against the ever-evolving surveillance practices of the aforementioned entities? Hopefully, this won't be the case, and Tor will soon get back to a safe, stable, and trustworthy state.

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