ANONYMITY ENGINE and gateway to the dark web Tor has announced what it calls a "social contract" with its users, guaranteeing that the group won't install backdoors or other nasties.
Tor, formerly an abbreviation of The Onion Router, actually received a great deal of the money that keeps it alive from the US government (although not the NSA obviously) and the Tor Social Contract should act as further reassurance that there is no conflict of interest.
The organisation is already licking its wounds after one of its developers, Jacob Appelbaum, was forced to step down in June amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
Meanwhile, the FBI is said to have cracked Tor using students with funding from the US Department of Defence. That's a lot of government organisations at odds.
The six-point contract goes in with guns blazing, talking of how it will "advance human rights" through the use of anonymity and privacy technologies.
The contract goes on to talk about "open and transparent research tools" and the promise that its products will remain free, open source and adaptable.
The ambitious goal in point four covers making Tor and related technologies "ubiquitous" through "advocacy and education". It goes on to promise that the organisation will be transparent about what its software can and cannot do.
The big one is point six, a statement that harks back to the days of Google's 'Don't be evil' pledge. In Tor's case it's 'We will never intentionally harm our users.'
"We take seriously the trust our users have placed in us. Not only will we always do our best to write good code, but it is imperative that we resist any pressure from adversaries who want to harm our users," said the contract.
"We will never implement front doors or back doors into our projects. In our commitment to transparency, we are honest when we make errors, and we communicate with our users about our plans to improve."
The group said in a blog post that the Social Contract is an ongoing process: "We want to grow Tor by supporting and advancing these guidelines in the time we are working on Tor, while taking care not to undermine them in the rest of our time."
Tor, like any technology, will have its detractors, but for most it is seen as a force for good, and the Social Contract is a way of cementing a commitment to that aim. µ
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