The executive director of the Tor Project, Shari Steele, has decided to retire after several years at the helm of the prominent organization.
Steele, who has been leading the Tor Project since late 2015, is set to relinquish her position on December 31, 2018.
Much of what was expected from Steele in her time as the Tor Project’s executive director was to effectively deal with the aftermath of the numerous sexual assault scandals that had marred the tenure of Jacob Appelbaum, a former Tor Project employee.
Despite having denied the accusations, Appelbaum ultimately resigned his position on Tor’s leadership team in 2016.
Steele is often credited with restoring the Tor Project’s community reputation after this controversy.
She also helped lead the effort to diversify the organization’s funding sources and boost its initiatives to get more mainstream internet users to adopt its flagship anonymity software.
Tor Community Divided in Wake of Staff Allegations
Founded in 2005, Massachusetts-based Tor Project is dedicated to creating online anonymity software. Despite its prominence primarily inspired by the need for online anonymity, Tor has experienced several controversial personnel resignations.
Before Steele was appointed executive director in 2015, the Tor Project had a rough time in its operations having to deal with sexual misconduct allegations directed to one of its executives, Jacob Appelbaum.
Appelbaum had previously worked as a security researcher at Tor before his departure.
He is also a journalist known for his involvement with major stories including the Edward Snowden disclosures and the operations of WikiLeaks.
In 2010, Rolling Stone labeled him as the “Public Face of the Tor Project” in an exclusive profile that comprehensively outlined his committed involvement with both WikiLeaks and the Tor Project.
In 2015, Appelbaum was accused of sexual misconduct in an ordeal that tarnished the reputation of the Tor Project. After his ultimate departure in May 2016, Tor issued a one-sentence statement to announce the staff change.
Later, the organization proceeded to give further details about his apparent resignation once the sexual misconduct rumors began to surface online.
Around this time, the Tor Project made a clean sweep of its administration by bringing in a whole new crop of individuals to lead the executive board and work alongside their newly appointed director, Shari Steele.
Steele’s Career: Years of Organizational Leadership
Before assuming her role as head of the Tor Project, the renowned digital activist was previously the executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
She had led the foundation for 15 years before stepping down in 2015 and joining the EFF’s Board of Directors.
Prior to being appointed as the head of EFF, Steele also worked as the organization’s legal director, a role she served for eight years.
Steele is also the co-founder of Bridges, a non-profit organization committed to ensuring that developing nations have solid technology policies.
Additionally, Steele regularly headlines major events, speaking about various issues surrounding civil liberties law in newly emerging technologies.
Steele is set to lead Tor until the end of the year, when she will relinquish her post on the last day of 2018.
In a statement on the Tor Project blog, Steele indicated that the thought of retirement had crossed her mind even before she joined Tor.
Nonetheless, she admits that she was convinced otherwise particularly because she had a strong belief in the mission of the Tor Project and felt that she could be of great assistance.
In her resignation announcement, Steele was also quick to point out that she felt quite confident that the organization is well equipped to carry on with its distinct objective of promoting online anonymity.
As of now, the Tor Project is actively searching for appropriate replacements.