The guy behind Ed Snowden's favorite email encryption tool is going broke


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Wow, just saw this notice pop up after using the donation page:

For donations made in 2010 we can not issue donation receipts, as the tax authorities have withdrawn our charitable status for this year due to our support of WikiLeaks.

Really interesting how just “associating” with certain journalists or journalistic organizations can lead to that kind of oppression. Anyway, I’ll stop here before I get Godwin’d…


So it looks like he’s now gotten 71k euros in 2015 so far, which is comforting, although kind of expected–that’s usually what happens when this sort of thing goes viral.

At this point, I’m kind of curious as to what exactly tipped it over into virality, especially after four years of negligible income.


Done and done! And a nice note from Werner.

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I actually use GnuPG with my Apple email client. Or I should say I have it installed. I am appalled that I can’t get my friends interested in using it as well so I don’t get to send much encrypted email.

Oh, and I donated! I’m happy the article pointed up the issue.

It looks like this article has done a lot of good - Facebook and Stripe have jointly announced that they are donating $50,000 each.

Also, the GPG project just announced that the Linux Foundation donated $60,000 at the end of January.


Is it the business that is was going broke, or the man? One does not imply the other… unless he is the business, which I hope not. If that’s the case, he should find a buyer in a hurry.


That article made me think about what free software I rely on daily and what support I give it. So I just made a donation to the Mozilla foundation, and Audacity, and the Diaspora foundation, Ardour and an encryption tool I use for email. So now I’m donating $25 / month, but hopefully this helps make software accessible for people who can’t afford to donate.

I also discovered that Ubuntu Studio, my OS, takes no donations at all and everybody working on it is a hobbyist.

I haven’t yet looked through my mobile to figure out what to support, but f-droid, OSM and CycleStreets will probably get at least a one-time support…

I’m making a resolution to pay a bit more attention to the donate button for things I actually use.

However, especially for the more invisible parts of infrastructure, I do think this should be collectively funded as infrastructure. It was a good use of tax money for the German government to have been paying for GPG and all of our governments should be looking at how to help support free software in order to enable citizens to be productive, creative and safe online.

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Do you have any details about that or any particular reason to believe that anything inappropriate happened?

For example, if it is about the charitable status of the GmbH, then something as simple any activity beyond the specific purposes set out in its charter can cost it that.

So nothing has changed in over 20 years?

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any particular reason to believe that anything inappropriate happened?

Yes, I think so. Then again, I’m partial towards freedom against tyranny.

There’s some sources of info via the references here:

Have you actually read the correspondence with the authorities or only the foundation’s blurb? I don’t think the authorities’ case is that bad. It certainly seems that the foundation violated the conditions of its tax exemption that year.

It’s never nice to see someone you sympathize with being slapped down for violating the rules, but I still not convinced that this would have gone any other way if it hadn’t been Wikileaks.

Here’s the statement that later admitted the promotion of WikiLeaks was in accordance with the statutes of the Foundation:

So, the harassment in the first place was “in error”.

When that “turn of the screw” didn’t hold up, they shifted focus towards other harassment until the organization finally stopped fighting so they could at least retroactively get 2011 forward back to charitable status for those who donated to them.

I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree that all of preliminary, baseless harassment and following scrutiny was simply a coincidence and happened in a vacuum outside of their support for Wikileaks and mounting pressure from the US.

And, I think we’ll also just have to agree to disagree this was also simply an amazing coincidence as it occurred with PayPal’s pullout due to increasing pressure from the US government as well.

I get the feeling you’ve been fortunate enough in life to never have the screws turned on you in this manner. Or, perhaps you were too naive to realize it.

It is always a bit tricky to prove a negative. You are the one who decided that they were oppressed for some reason. While the foundation clearly wasn’t happy about the decision, I don’t even recall them alleging that.

Mainly the authorities’ argument is not at all specific to Wikileaks.
Corporations qualify for this tax exemption if they exclusively and immediately serve the charitable purposes set out in their charter. The authorities’ position is that Wikileaks is an independent third party and that whatever they do with the funds is no longer the WHS’s own charitable activity and thus a use of funds violating the immediacy requirement of the tax exemption.

For example, do you find any fault with the reasoning of the Hamburg court?

ETA: Sorry, I answered the old version of your comment.

That’s not quite what it says. In that document, relatively early in the process, they deny having reviewed that and say that they see no reason.

Sorry, my fault, I didn’t think you’d read it that soon before I edited it.

Then you interpreted it very differently than the Wau Holland Foundation did and many others as well:

Again, I get the feeling you’ve been fortunate enough in life to never have the screws turned on you in this manner.

Again, I have read that and I don’t see how that supports your allegations.

I get that “foundation loses charitable status after working with WikiLeaks” sounds bad to you and I can see why it would. However after looking at the details I have yet to find a single actual violation of their rights. Even you haven’t identified anything specific. So far it sounds a lot like “foundation temporarily loses tax exemption after violating requirements”.

Do you think the final decision was legally wrong? Do you think the regulations would have been enforced differently if it had been any other recipient? Do you think their procedural rights have been violated? Do you think it may be technically correct, but they would have deserved a pass because they are good guys serving a noble cause?

Perhaps you have additional information about this case that I haven’t seen. That may very well convince me. You telling me that I am just too naive to understand why your unsubstantiated hunch is right probably won’t.

So far it sounds a lot like “foundation temporarily loses tax exemption after violating requirements”.

You’re wrong, it wasn’t temporary. The loss of exemption status for 2010 is permanent.

Do you think the final decision was legally wrong?

Sigh… technically legal actions are very often used as a weapon. Legal actions and ethical/prudent actions aren’t always the same thing.

Again, you’ve very obviously been fortunate enough in life to never had the screws turned on you in this manner and be subjected to the intended chilling effect.

fter looking at the details I have yet to find a single actual violation of their rights ... unsubstantiated hunch

You’re being very disingenuous in ignoring the very obvious timing of the incidents. We’ll just have to agree to disagree that your pedantic quest to act as an apologist for their actions isn’t being obtuse and ridiculous.

Well, we find that

For more than a decade, g10code GmbH, a company owned and headed by GnuPG’s principal author Werner Koch, is bearing the majority of these costs. (source)


###Our mission

g10code is a company dedicated to consulting, development and high-level support of security applications and OS level applications.

Founded by the principal author of GnuPG (a software suite used for encryption and digital signatures), we provide custom development, enhancements and audits of cryptographic and system software. An ongoing effort of ours is the development and maintenance of GnuPG and related software.

###Our development team

Due to a lasting low order situtation we are currently employing only one developer. (source)

When you are the business, and the purpose of the business is not “making money”, but “ensuring this vitally important privacy tool exists”, finding an owner that shares your dedicated vision is perilous. Same too for the buyer – they are basically buying the contents of one head, a head that is free to go elsewhere.

Although I can’t find any supporting documentation, from seeing other situations, this sort of one-man shop is often supported by not paying its one-employee (the owner) very much money.

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