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Jacob Appelbaum at the Congress on Privacy & Surveillance (2013) of the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).
|Born||April 1, 1983|
|Institutions||University of Washington,
Eindhoven University of Technology,
Jacob Appelbaum (born April 1, 1983) is an American independent journalist, computer security researcher, artist, and hacker. He has been employed by the University of Washington, and was a core member of the Tor project, a free software network designed to provide online anonymity. Appelbaum is also known for representing WikiLeaks. He has displayed his art in a number of institutions across the world and has collaborated with artists such as Trevor Paglen and Ai Weiwei. His journalistic work has resulted in a number of books as well as publication in Der Spiegel. Appelbaum has repeatedly been targeted by US law enforcement agencies, who obtained a court order for his Twitter account data, detained him at the US border after trips abroad, and seized his laptop and several mobile phones.
Under the handle "ioerror", Appelbaum was an active member of the Cult of the Dead Cow hacker collective from 2008 to 2016. He was the co-founder of the San Francisco hackerspace Noisebridge with Mitch Altman. He worked for Kink.com and Greenpeace, and volunteered for the Ruckus Society and the Rainforest Action Network.
The Tor Project and several other organizations ended their association with Appelbaum in June 2016 following several allegations of sexual abuse; Appelbaum denied the accusations. One woman, whose interaction with Applebaum has been presented in the press as the most well-documented example of abuse, hotly contested allegations that Applebaum abused her and questioned the validity of other allegations against him. Various activists and others have publicly supported Applebaum, asserting that extrajudicial social reactions to the allegations were overly extreme, and had violated Appelbaum's fundamental rights, resulting in a witch-hunt.
Early life and education
Appelbaum tested out of high school.[clarification needed] In a wide-ranging interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 2010, Appelbaum revealed that "I come from a family of lunatics... [a]ctual, raving lunatics." He stated that his mother "is a paranoid schizophrenic. She insisted that Jake had somehow been molested by his father while he was still in the womb". He was taken away from his mother by his aunt when he was 6. Two years later, he was placed in a children's home in Sonoma County. At age 10, his indigent father was awarded custody of him. Having been introduced to computer programming by a friend's father, Appelbaum said, saved his life. "The Internet is the only reason I'm alive today."
Appelbaum has taken part in a number of art-projects, both together with dissident-artists Ai Weiwei and Trevor Paglen, and on his own. His art often straddles the border between art and technology and has given rise to projects such as Panda to Panda (P2P) and the Autonomy Cube. Appelbaum is also a photographer and has exhibited his art in a solo show at NOME.
Appelbaum was among several people to gain access to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's top secret documents released in 2013. He has been contributing extensively as a journalist to the publication of those documents. On December 28, 2013, at the Chaos Communication Congress, he presented documents showing that the NSA can turn iPhones into eavesdropping tools and has developed devices to harvest electronic information from a computer even if not online. The devices are listed in the NSA ANT catalog, published by Der Spiegel.
He is a contributor to Julian Assange's 2012 book Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet along with Andy Müller-Maguhn and Jérémie Zimmermann.
Technology and activism
In 2005, Appelbaum gave two talks at the 22nd Chaos Communication Congress, Personal Experiences: Bringing Technology and New Media to Disaster Areas, and A Discussion About Modern Disk Encryption Systems. The former covered his travels to Iraq—crossing the border by foot, the installing of Internet satellites in Kurdistan, and his visit of New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina. The latter talk discussed the legal and technical aspects of full disk encryption. At the 2006 23rd Chaos Communication Congress, he gave a talk with Ralf-Philipp Weinmann titled Unlocking FileVault: An Analysis of Apple's Encrypted Disk Storage System. The duo subsequently released the VileFault free software program which broke Apple's FileVault security.
Appelbaum represented Julian Assange for Wikileaks in a keynote address at the 2010 HOPE conference. FBI agents intended to detain him after his talk but organizers had slipped him in disguise out of an alternative exit.
In August 2013, Appelbaum delivered Edward Snowden's acceptance speech after he was awarded the biannual Whistleblower Prize by a group of NGOs at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
Appelbaum regards Tor as a "part of an ecosystem of software that helps people regain and reclaim their autonomy. It helps to enable people to have agency of all kinds; it helps others to help each other and it helps you to help yourself. It runs, it is open and it is supported by a large community spread across all walks of life."
Allegations of sexual abuse and responses
On May 25, 2016, Appelbaum stepped down from his position at Tor; this was announced on June 2 by the non-profit in a terse statement. On June 4, Shari Steele, the executive director of the Tor project, published a much longer statement, noting that although prior allegations of sexual abuse regarding Appelbaum were consistent with "rumors some of us had been hearing for some time," that "...the most recent allegations are much more serious and concrete than anything we had heard previously."
Also on June 4, a website appeared with anonymous accounts of mistreatment by Appelbaum. Security engineer Leigh Honeywell came forward on June 7 to publicly relate the website's stories with her relationship with Appelbaum, in which she described Appelbaum ignoring a safeword and becoming violent. On June 15, Alison Macrina (the director of the Library Freedom Project) and Isis Agora Lovecruft publicly announced that the website's anonymous accounts of sexual abuse, under the pseudonyms of "Sam" and "Forest," respectively, were their own.
An anonymously leaked letter that the Tor Project's human resources manager had written to Appelbaum in conjunction with his March 2015 suspension for unprofessional conduct was published on June 7.
In response to the allegations the Cult of the Dead Cow ended their association with Appelbaum on June 7, and the Freedom of the Press Foundation removed him from their volunteer technical advisory board on June 8. Noisebridge announced on June 10 that co-founder Appelbaum had triggered their Anti-Harassment policy and is "no longer welcome in our community, either in its physical or online spaces," and on June 17 the Chaos Computer Club announced that he was not welcome. On June 18 his status as a Debian GNU/Linux project developer was revoked, and shortly thereafter Linux Australia considered barring him. On June 20 Linux Australia (at which he had been a keynote speaker in 2012) deferred on placing any restrictions on Appelbaum until the facts of the matter became clearer. On July 1 after widespread consultation and feedback Linux Australia barred Appelbaum from future events.
In June 2016, Appelbaum's Berlin apartment was defaced in English and German with words directly referencing the allegations.
In July 2016 the Tor Project announced it had completed a seven-week investigation led by a hired investigator. According to Shari Steele, Tor Project “did everything in our power” to treat Mr. Appelbaum fairly, but “we determined that the allegations against him appear to be true.” According to her summary of the investigation, which was not released, "many people inside and outside the Tor Project have reported incidents of being humiliated, intimidated, bullied, and frightened" by Jacob Appelbaum, and that "several experienced unwanted sexually aggressive behavior from him." Steele made no mention of rape claims published on the anonymous website. Steele alleged that two other unnamed individuals had also been involved in inappropriate behavior are no longer part of the project. Among other changes, Steele stated that a new anti-harassment policy has been drafted.
Support of Appelbaum
On June 6, Appelbaum issued a statement denouncing the allegations as part of a concerted strategy to damage his reputation. Applebaum's attorney stated that legal options were being evaluated.
On 10 June, Jill Bähring, a woman previously described as an anonymous victim, cast doubt on the abuse allegations. Bähring had been described as an unidentified woman who was distressed after having been groped by Appelbaum in a hotel bar. But in a statement released by Gizmodo journalist William Turton, Bähring accused the four witnesses to the interaction, who had reported alleged abuse, of “willingly” misinterpreting her experience at the hotel. “I recall that night clearly, and my story is entirely different,” she wrote.
In her statement, Bähring wrote:
- "Reading this highly distorted version of my experience, which is being used as one of the “bulletproof examples” of Jacob’s alleged misbehavior, I can’t help but wonder. Wonder about all the stories that have been published the last days. Wonder not only about mob justice on twitter, caused by rumors and speculation, but also about the accounts repeated by those who call themselves journalists. Wonder about how many other stories have been willingly misinterpreted. Wonder about the witnesses in all these stories, who coincidentally always seem to consist of the same set of people. Wonder about their motive to speak on my behalf without my consent." 
On 17 June 2016, activists, journalists and legal professionals supporting Appelbaum signed a document defending his right to due process, and deploring the story's treatment by social media.
Surveillance, airport detention and Wikileaks investigation
Since 2009, Appelbaum claims to have suffered extreme surveillance that affected himself and his close relations. In interviews, he has stated that he has generally experienced relief from the U.S. surveillance living in Germany. Appelbaum has described various aggressive surveillance events, and implies they are related to his work with Wikileaks, to his privacy activism and relationships with other privacy activists, notably reporters linked to Edward Snowden. In December 2013, Appelbaum said he suspected the U.S. government of breaking into his Berlin apartment.
In 2010, the US Department of Justice obtained a court order compelling Twitter to provide data associated with the user accounts of Appelbaum, as well as several other individuals associated with Wikileaks. While the order was originally sealed, Twitter successfully petitioned the court to unseal it, permitting the company to inform its users that their account information had been requested.
Appelbaum is an atheist of Jewish background and identifies himself as queer, "though he refers to at least a dozen female lovers in nearly as many countries". He also is an anarchist and enjoys photography.
In 2012 he moved to Berlin, where he works under a freelance visa; he has stated that he doesn't want to go back to the USA because he doesn't feel safe there and in interviews he has provided specific examples of experiences that left him feeling unsafe. Appelbaum also notes strong German privacy protections as reasons for preferring to live in Germany, as opposed to the United States.
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An anarchist street kid raised by a heroin- addict father, he dropped out of high school, taught himself the intricacies of code and developed a healthy paranoia along the way.
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Like, for me, as an atheist, bisexual, Jew, I'm gonna go on, uh - oh and Emma Goldman is one of my great heroes and I really think that anarchism is a fantastic principle by which to fashion a utopian society even if we can't get there.
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- https://gnunet.org/tor2013tum-video video of a talk at the TU Munich from 24. Juli 2013 (statement at approx. 0:05:00)
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