Reimbursement for Exit Operators

Tue 17 September 2013 by Moritz

In July last year, Roger announced that BBG was interested in funding fast exits. [1] The initial discussion on the mailing list continued into August. If you’re interested, you should consult the archive for the various points raised. Since then, we’ve been discussing that topic on and off. It matched with my plans to turn into a platform for many organizations, instead of just one single entity that runs too many exit relays, so I agreed to take the lead. I posted a status report of some sort on this list in April this year. [2]

The Wau Holland Foundation agreed to be one of the organizations willing to handle the money and pass it on to other entities, be it single operators or organizations. Both Torproject and Wau Holland Foundation checked with their lawyers to see if this turns into a problem about liability, and it looks like it does not. We’re open for more organizations to join in to manage the reimbursement process, but this is what we’ve got for now.

In parallel, we’ve seen a growing number of organizations that were created to turn donations into exit bandwidth. [3]

Two issues with reimbursements, that were also mentioned in Roger’s initial posting, are that (1) you don’t want to drive away all the volunteers, and (2) you don’t want to become dependent on (a single or a handful of) sponsors. These are difficult issues, and I want to strongly encourage everyone to keep contributing to the network. We really need you, and we need more of you!

The second issue, dependence on funders, is on the one hand a harder one, but on the other hand (in my opinion) a less relevant one. If structures die and nodes have to be shut down because a funder backs off, so be it. We hopefully don’t change the picture too much in comparison to the “unfunded times of today”. The reimbursement process does not guarantee a money stream, and the amounts are set on a month-to-month basis, to encourage recipients to plan only short-term, and only make contracts based on the money they have, disregarding what they may or may not receive in the future. The current “bucket” is the one-time BBG money, and it currently does not look like they will restock it.

It might sound scary, but to satisfy the tax authorities (and to show that it is a [hopefully] fair and transparent process), the Wau Holland Foundation needs to have partners sign a contract. The contract does not limit the partners abilities or restrict what they do, it only defines the reimbursement process.

The way we want to start doing it now is not set in stone, and hopefully now that we finally start handing out money it will encourage further discussion around it. We want to refine the process over time, but it looks like we just have to try with what we have now and learn from our mistakes. Please don’t be too hard with your criticism or you will emotionally hurt me. I’m all ears. :-)

We want to reimburse based on the throughput per exit relay and organization. To strengthen network diversity, we came up with the plan to also factor in the location of the relays. There is a maximum amount any entity can receive so we hopefully don’t grow big monsters.

The contract [4] specifies that there is a monthly amount, currently set to $3500, split amongst all recipients (whom I started calling “torservers partners”). The recipient share is calculated from the throughput per relay * country factor, and the maximum amount per month per partner is 500 Euro. The Wau Holland Foundation can currently only reimburse via wire transfer.

The country factors can change over time, and are currently derived from the total exit probability of that country. We can and should refine this. Changes of these factors do not require new contracts.

Note that since the total amount of $3500 will be handed out every month, as long as we have less than 6 entities signing the contract, each entity will receive their maximum share of 500 Euro. I don’t really like the idea of a fixed monthly total handed out like that, but that’s what the lawyers and tax authorities signed off for Wau Holland Foundation. It seems to be costly to re-evaluate such contracts, so this is what we will stick to for now via WHF.

Technically, the monthly shares and the country factors are calculated using a tool written by Lunar^^ (big thanks!). [5] You can find an example report at [6] (not the correct numbers, but you’ll get the idea). This monthly report will be sent to all partners, and once they signed the contract they will simply get their monthly share.

As stated at the top, we want to start reimbursing this month. Please let me know if you have any questions. We have a mailing list that is public and read-only where we send important announcements, and require every participant to be on and actually read. We have another mailing list that is also read-only for the public, but people of the participating organizations can post and discuss everything around and reimbursements. [7]

The process to become a “partner” for now requires that I “know you”. So, if you’re interested in becoming a partner, start social interaction with me. I see that as a bad bottleneck, and I hope we can somehow get rid of it in the future. I generally prefer “organizations” over single persons, because (1) in most countries it seems to be really inexpensive and easy to set up organizations and (2) the process of setting up such entities includes that you gather enough people around you, so chances are you will continue even if one of you drops out.

If you want to discuss, I prefer the tor-relays mailing list and our IRC channel, #torservers on I also explicitly want to invite every partner to join that channel.

To comment use our mailing list or visit us on IRC ( #torservers).