[tor-reports] January Status report

Jacob Appelbaum jacob at appelbaum.net
Thu Feb 6 12:57:19 UTC 2014

My January was very uneventful. It started with finishing up the Tor
related paperwork for 2013 - which I think made Melissa happy with me.
This is important, we should all work to make Melissa happy at all
times. :)

After I was mostly caught up with Tor paperwork - I took some badly
needed time off. I went to Thailand and met some people for diving in
the southern part of the country; I badly needed a vacation after
December and most of 2013. I found myself in a country in a declared
state of emergency - though it was the most peaceful and calm
revolution I've seen in the last few years. This was mostly in Bangkok
- I met a few Tor users and talked with others about how to protect
themselves from surveillance. I think we'll have a new Tor relay on
the Thai island of Koh Lanta soon but I'm not sure.

I returned to Berlin after a few weeks and immediately was swept up in
the media firestorm about the latest issues surrounding anonymity.
After a couple of weeks offline, I basically did a month of public
speaking engagements, trainings and interviews in a single week. It
reminded me of why I needed to go offline!

Leif, Aaron and I did a Tor workshop which was filled with all sorts
of folks at an event called  http://www.einbruch-der-dunkelheit.de/
which was sponsored by the Berliner Gazette. I was on a panel with
some folks to discuss lessons learned about anonymity, document
leaking and whistle blowing.

I attended Transmediale and with Laura Poitras and Trevor Paglen, the
three of us gave the keynote Art as Evidence:
http://www.transmediale.de/content/keynote-art-as-evidence - I was
also mobbed by a bunch of press about anonymity related topics. This
included an interview with journalists from SVT who are working on a
documentary about issues surrounding Tor. They were intensely personal
which was a bit uncomfortable but they were balanced and understood
the importance of cryptography to protect privacy. I understand that
the director, Bo, will be at the Tor Dev meeting. I suggested that he
interview a set of specific people - I hope that he'll meet with
everyone and give everyone a chance to speak.

As a side note, I was totally flattered by Bruce Sterling who wrote
the following about our panel:

"This was one of the most interesting cultural panels I've ever seen.
That atmosphere in that hall was extraordinary. A lot of people must
have left that room with a different conception of the world they


I'm convinced that we need to step up our discussions in the areas and
various fields of art and culture. This is important for changing
minds and specifically for changing behavior. The number of people who
approached me after the keynote about using Tor and asking how they
can learn more about practical cryptography was overwhelming.

I was invited to speak the Council of Europe with Christian Grothoff,
Douwe Korff and others to speak. It was a really great experience:


I did some automation work on Tor router related stuff - I think I've
found a reasonable way to generically turn any RaspberryPi, Novena or
whatever hardware platform into a box to help users with anonymity.
This is probably going to become an art project with Trevor Paglen as
a proof of concept.

While in Thailand, I also tried to do some extreme dogfooding - I've
now switched to using Tails almost exclusively and to using all
software with Tor. The only thing I'm missing now is synchronous voice
communications and an easy way to test pluggable transports.

I wrote a very simple patch for xmpp-client to ensure that
jabber.calyxinstitute.org users use the Tor hidden service - though I
didn't send it to agl until yesterday or so.

In other news, phw pointed out an important fact to me last night - we
have a Tor office in Berlin! My apartment! (Lets move it somewhere
else! Please!) There are now a handful of Tor developers partially
living with me and we're working around the clock on all sorts of fun
projects. It also helps with my personal problem of keeping my
apartment free from non-Tor developing intruders. Hooray!

I'm sure that I missed some stuff. My February will include
tor-fw-helper related tasks, Tor Router stuff, helping Aaron with some
OONI related tasks, being overwhelmed by the press, the Tor Developer
meeting, hopefully some Debian packaging of a few Tor related pieces
of software and rebuilding/configuring some computers.

All the best,

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