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Re: Why governments fund TOR?

On Wed, Dec 30, 2009 at 1:18 PM, Paul Syverson <syverson@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
On Wed, Dec 30, 2009 at 10:39:56AM -0700, Jim wrote:
> arshad wrote:
> > hi all,
> > forgive me for my ignorance.
> > may i know why governmetns fund TOR. i read 49% funds coming from
> > government. TOR is usually considered for passing government restriction
> > by journalists and activists. so why should governments fund this?
> I can't speak for all governments but it might be relevant to point out
>  that onion routing started (as I understand it -- anybody, feel free to
> correct) as a project of the U.S. Navy and was used by the various
> branches of the U.S armed forces to use the Internet anonymously.
> Trouble was, that although their targets could not tell *exactly* who
> was visiting their website, they could tell it was U.S. military.  So,
> as I understand it, they released the technology so they could hide
> among the civilians.
> Even within a particular govt you can have conflicting goals.  Part may
> wish to prevent its citizens from being anonymous while another part may
> find it useful to use civilians for cover.
> Just my speculation ...

I'm not speaking for any government, including my employer or my
funders, but I can say something about why we, the inventors of onion
routing and designers of Tor, did what we did. We were as explicit as
possible as to what we intended and why with funders, management and
others. Presumably some of it was agreeable since we received support.
The above is largely correct, so I am only clarifying where I thought
there was room for misinterpretation.  The primary purpose for which
we proposed and designed onion routing networks (including Tor, which
started life in some of my NRL onion routing projects) was to separate
identification from routing, as we note in the first onion routing
publication "Hiding Routing Information" in 1996 and at
www.onion-router.net.  Jim's speculation on the above cited motivation
was not something we ran across through experience but rather a design
motivation from the very beginning. We argued fifteen years ago that
to protect private traffic when going to and from a public network you
needed to carry traffic for others not just yourself, which meant that
they had to trust the network, which meant that you had to diffuse
trust by letting others run part of the infrastructure and that you
had to let them see the code. I think this is essentially stated in
our early onion routing publications. This was also part of the reason
we sought and received our first publication release for public
distribution of onion routing code in 1996. We were open source before
that phrase was in general use. My comments apply only to the funding
I received and the motivations we had. Other later goals of, e.g.,
censorship resistance and other funding of Tor I have not been part of
and should let others comment.

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I like hearing the history of this project, and wouldn't mind hearing more about the challenges you faced back then, who the challengers were, and what their point of view and/or concerns were.

Paul, thank you for all your hard work!

- K