[tor-project] The Tor Project Social Contract

Nathan Freitas nathan at freitas.net
Tue Aug 2 17:34:23 UTC 2016

On Tue, Aug 2, 2016, at 07:59 AM, Lunar wrote:
> Hi!
> Mike Perry:
> > I hate to be late to the party, and I hate to start a libre/free/open
> > flamewar, but I am concerned about the specific language "free of cost"
> > with respect to our tools in Point #3.
> > […]
> > I see nothing wrong with paid versions of Tor tools, paid hardware, or
> > paid access, so long as the implementations of security-critical
> > components are open source and auditable. Maybe others disagree?
> I disagree. :)
> Wealth is already an important factor in one's ability to enjoy freedoms
> of opinion, expression, and association. If we agree that you can't
> really exercise these freedoms in the digital world without tools like
> Tor, I think such access to these tools should not be restricted by
> how much money you can spend on it.
> While I agree that we should find ways to cover costs of production,
> or that I think it's ok to sell hardware with Tor preinstalled,
> I believe we should try to find business models that aim to balance the
> wealth disparities of this world, because I want our work to help
> balance power.

I agree with both of you in different ways. Requiring a user to be able
to compile to get something free is not good enough. 

Some longer thoughts below, but I think the spirit of what we say should
be "Always Free, but Pay What You Can". 

Using Onion Browser as an example, it is great that Mike Tigas has been
able to independently support his work on that project by charging a
small fee for the open-source software he builds. However, it has also
severely limited adoption, and pushed users to less trustworthy apps,
because there are many people who don't have the ability to purchase
apps on iOS due to not having a credit card or being in a country where
paid apps are not supported (like Iran, I believe). With iOS, there is
no way to sideload from a free app store without making your device
insecure, so the only "free as in beer" and secure way to get Onion
Browser is to know someone who has a Mac, is an iOS developer, and who
is willing to link your device to their IDE setup.

What I would like to see from Onion Browser, and from all Tor-related
apps/projects/community members that choose to support this contract, is
to offer a free version always, and then a pro/premium pay version, or a
"pay what you can" option, that is functionality equivalent. That way,
novice users will always have access without any impediments due to
their economic situation. This is also a model that I would like to
adopt for Orbot and Orfox, and any app store that offers a built-in,
easy payment system. Again, users would not be required to use this, but
for people who already opt-in and are comfortable providing their
payment information, then it is an easy way for Tor projects to gain
sustainable grassroots support.

On the hardware front, we are already working with Copperhead to sell
premium-priced Nexus phones flashed with their open-source OS, that may
someday have Orbot built into it. Copperhead offers their ROM free of
charge for anyone to flash to a Nexus device, but again, that is a very
serious impediment for non-technical users. What I am trying to setup
there is a "buy one, give one" program, or again, a "pay what you can"
system, that is backed by those who can afford to donate money along
with their purchases.

> > Here's an attempt to reword to capture my thinking:
> > 
> >   3. Our tools are universally available to access, use, adapt, and distribute
> Ok with the rewording here.

Perhaps we could define "universally available" a bit more to ensure
that in includes non-technical end-users? This means that we are talking
about more than just "we publish the source code".


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