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Key Tor developer Jacob Appelbaum leaves amidst sexual misconduct claims

The allegations, now made public, have left the Tor Project "deeply troubled" -- but Appelbaum is not going down without a fight.

Active Tor developer, digital advocate and security researcher Jacob Appelbaum has left his position at Tor amidst rumors and allegations of serious sexual mistreatment.

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Appelbaum is a 33-year-old security specialist who has been a strong voice in the privacy and security space for years and was considered a "core" member of the Tor Project.

Based in Berlin, Appelbaum was one of the first reporters to get their hands on confidential files leaked by US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, has presented research at the Chaos Communication Congress and is a member of the Freedom of the Press technical advisory board.

Last week, the Tor Project released a short statement revealing that the developer had "stepped down" from his position on 25 May, but no more details were given.

In an update on Sunday, the Tor Project said that recent "serious, public allegations" made against Appelbaum were not "entirely new" to Tor employees and were "consistent" with rumors which had been floating around for some time.

However, the spate of recent allegations are far more severe than those heard previously, and the "concrete" nature of the allegations have also left Tor staff "deeply troubled."

The Tor Project, well-known for providing an anti-surveillance network for users concerned about tracking, censorship and privacy, is not comfortable about making judgements concerning the private lives of others, but after consultation with some of the unnamed complainants and Appelbaum, the developer chose to withdraw from his position.

A legal firm specializing in sexual misconduct is now on board to help the network handle the situation.

"We don't know yet where those investigations will lead or if other people involved with Tor are implicated," said Shari Steele, Executive Director of the Tor Project. "We will act as quickly as possible to accurately determine the facts as best we can. Out of respect for the individuals involved, we do not expect results to be made public."

It is not expected that Appelbaum's alleged conduct will hamper the future of the Tor network -- but either way, the developer at the root of the investigation is not staying silent.

In a statement published Monday, the developer said he had "little choice" but to resign from his position due to the "calculated and targeted attack."

Appelbaum says the criminal sexual misconduct claims made against him are "entirely false," and he needed to make a public statement after the "smear campaign" became so serious that he received death threats.

The security advocate admits there may have been times where he has hurt or offended other people and apologizes, but in this case, Appelbaum is prepared to use legal channels if required to defend his reputation.

Steele commented:

"Going forward, we want the Tor community to be a place where all participants can feel safe and supported in their work. [...] In our handling of this situation, we aim to balance between our desire to be transparent and accountable, and also to respect individual privacy.

We expect that this will be our only public statement."