Tor Project lets go of a third of staff due to COVID-19

Posted on Apr 20, 2020 by Caleb Chen

The Tor Project, the non profit organization behind the Tor (The Onion Router) Browser, has let go of roughly a third of its staff due to the COVID-19 crisis. Tor is known as a private browser developed for use by dissidents in oppressive countries and others that need their internet use anonymized. Tech companies and organizations around the world have been affected by this pandemic, and it’s sobering to see the Tor Project have to let go of staff during this time period where Tor use is arguably ever more crucial.

They wrote in a post on the Tor blog announcing the news:

“Tor, like much of the world, has been caught up in the COVID-19 crisis. Like many other nonprofits and small businesses, the crisis has hit us hard, and we have had to make some difficult decisions.”

As an example of how the privacy industry has been affected by COVID-19. The annual Internet Freedom Festival is supposed to be taking place between April 20th and April 24th with the Tor Project hosting a Tor Village as one of the main attractions; however, the event has been canceled for this year.

The Tor Project will continue

The post continued with an affirmation that Tor Browser development will go on:

“We had to let go of 13 great people who helped make Tor available to millions of people around the world. We will move forward with a core team of 22 people, and remain dedicated to continuing our work on Tor Browser and the Tor software ecosystem.”

As governments and companies around the world up their surveillance of their citizens as a way of corralling this pandemic and the average American becomes more dependent on their internet connection to work and live life, privacy awareness has been rising. It is unfortunate that the Tor Project needs to let go of staff during such a crucial time; however, the move was made to ensure Tor’s continuity into the future. Tor’s post continued:

“The world won’t be the same after this crisis, and the need for privacy and secure access to information will become more urgent. In these times, being online is critical and many people face ongoing obstacles to getting and sharing needed information. We are taking today’s difficult steps to ensure the Tor Project continues to exist and our technology stays available.”

The privacy industry will continue on

Privacy is more important now than ever.  The Tor Project is an established part of the privacy ecosystem and though it has suffered a hit, it will go on. On the VPN end of the privacy ecosystem, Private Internet Access has expanded its network, VPN connection features, and is also expanding its workforce with new hires. While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected PIA’s work culture as well as social distancing has been implemented, and caused governments to seek more surveillance powers, the privacy world will continue on.