WikiLeaks, Tor, and defender of privacy
BIOGRAPHY SUMMARYJacob Appelbaum has made a name for himself as the only American working for WikiLeaks, as a vocal advocate of the Tor Project, and for a controversial harassment scandal that cost him his career.
Jacob Appelbaum Overview ‧ read
The early life of Jacob Appelbaum
Shortly after starting and abandoning college to “continue his education”, Appelbaum moved to Oakland at the age of 20 and began his work as a technologist and activist with the Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace.
Appelbaum is often described as healthily paranoid; many people who meet him for the first time are shocked by the extent to which he maintains anonymity. According to Rolling Stone, he has his mail delivered to a virtual office, pays everything in cash, uses a different email address every time he signs up for an online service, and regularly uses over a dozen different cell phones throughout a day.
The founding of Noisebridge
Today Jacob Appelbaum is known primarily for two projects he was closely involved in: WikiLeaks and the Tor Project.
Involvement in WikiLeaks
At the time, Appelbaum lived in Berlin, as did other prominent anti-surveillance activists, like Sarah Harrison and Laura Poitras.
His involvement in WikiLeaks landed him in the crosshairs of U.S. law enforcement. Between 2009 and 2013, Appelbaum was repeatedly harassed and had his devices seized at U.S. airports, often for hours at a time. The U.S. government obtained a sealed court order that forced Twitter to hand over all the information they had on him. At one point, Jacob Appelbaum suspected American agents had broken into his apartment in Berlin.
Work on the Tor Project
Jacob Appelbaum as a journalist
For Der Spiegel’s work covering the Snowden leaks, Appelbaum and his team earned the Henri-Nannen-Preis, a prestigious German journalism award.
Assault allegations and aftermath
The Tor Project, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Noisebridge, Chaos Computer Club, Debian, and Cult of the Dead Cow all publicly distanced themselves from Appelbaum, revoking his membership and barring him from their events.
The controversy has affected not only Appelbaum, but also the tight-knit information security community as a whole. The community, which prides itself on fighting for equality and injustice everywhere, failed to spot serious misconduct in their midst for years and take appropriate actions to address it. The community has since been searching its own soul, and promised to implement better safeguards to protect the vulnerable among it.