Let's say that:

  1. You have created a FOSS project that other people find useful, perhaps useful enough to donate to or pay for modifications to be done.
  2. It is a perfectly legitimate and innocuous software project. It has nothing to do with cryptography as munitions, p2p music, or anything likely to lead to a search warrant or being sued.
  3. You want your involvement to stay anonymous or pseudonymous.
  4. You would like to receive some money for your efforts, if people are willing.

Is that possible, and if so, how could it be done?

When I talk about anonymity, I realize that it is necessary to define the extent. I am not talking about Wikileaks style 20 layers of proxies worth of anonymity. I would expect a 3 letter agency to be able to identify the person easily. What is wanted is shielding from commercial competitors or random people, who would not be expected to be able to get the financial intermediary to divulge your details just by asking for them.

Why would you want to stay anonymous? I can think of several valid reasons, maybe you operate a stealth mode startup and don't want to give your competitors clues as to the technology you are using. Maybe it is a project that has nothing to do with your daily job, is not developed there, but the company you work for has an unfair (and possibly unenforceable) policy stating that any coding you do is owned by them. Maybe you just value your privacy.

For what it's worth, you intend to pay the relevant taxes in your country on any donations.

  • 1
    while there may be technical ways to do this, you would be best advised to ask a lawyer, not a programmer Mar 24, 2011 at 2:44
  • 11
    Based on my extensive knowledge of action movies you have to create shell corporations and hire a programmer that can move money from account to account with a convenient progress bar to show you the balance as each dollar is deposited.
    – snakehiss
    Mar 24, 2011 at 3:57
  • 1
    If you dont want a competitor to know the technology you are using, you probably shouldnt make it FOSS. Mar 24, 2011 at 4:05
  • If it's only support infrastructure for your business, I think there is little to lose and lots to gain by going FOSS. Something useful to others will get good suggestions from users, bug reports found, and may stop a footgun or two. If it's unlikely your competitors will use it, then there is no harm done IMO.
    – user21007
    Apr 3, 2011 at 3:04
  • First, you really should know whether your company's policy is enforceable or not, since if they suspect you've published something they want they can get through privacy protections. Second, is the amount of donations you expect worth setting up some sort of privacy shelter? Jun 23, 2011 at 20:52

4 Answers 4


For modest donations, a Paypal business acct may do the trick. You'd have to investigate it, but I think that will show a business name, not a persons name, in the donor's transaction history. That should keep your individual name relatively private.

Dont forget to setup up a private registration for your domain name, too.

  • Once you know a company's name, depending on where you live it may not be that hard to research more about the company, who its officers are etc. which in the case of a one-man operation will be that one man. And your competitors will know the name of your business, or can probably do an online search to find that out and from there, see what google uncovers. Other than that, not a bad response and this was my first thought too.
    – user21007
    Mar 24, 2011 at 5:02
  • Dont use the business name anywhere other than paypal. Mar 24, 2011 at 5:30
  • @user21007 One could just incorporate in BVI or Vanuatu. Both country offers privacy protections for the company owners. It does have other complications. For BVI it's not expensive. I don't know for Vanuatu.
    – Vitor Py
    May 26, 2011 at 20:43
  • @user21007 If your that concerned, just setup a dedicated business account with your project name instead of your company name. Paypal shouldn't care
    – TheLQ
    Jun 23, 2011 at 14:45

In the United States there are varying laws about disclosure of the ownership of a business depending on the state. I am not a lawyer but I would think you'd want to contact a competent attorney to advise you on how to structure your venture.

  • The only problem with that is that with many software projects the legal fees will be higher than several years worth of donations, I would guesstimate.
    – user21007
    Mar 24, 2011 at 5:03
  • 4
    There's basically no anonymity with financial transactions. The regulations about money laundering are designed to prevent that. I still don't understand your motivation for wanting revenue for but not the credit for the work.
    – Jeremy
    Mar 24, 2011 at 5:35
  • You can decloak whenever it suits you to get the credit for the work. If you've written it, you can prove it's you. Credit for ego's sake alone is only necessary if you are ego driven. For example, Stephen King eventually got the credit for writing The Running Man (and others, as Richard Bachman), but eventually got credit for them. He had his own reasons. For another, look at Paul Graham's "Beating the Averages" (google it). And some people like to lead a quiet life, avoid facebook and the like.
    – user21007
    Mar 24, 2011 at 7:10

I'm not sure there's anonymous P.O boxes in the US but in that case simply have people mail you a 5 dollar bill or something :) Host the website on wordexpress or something where you don't have to register a domain name under your name.

  • Nice idea! If you live in New York City or Tokyo, this is probably a good option. Less so if you live in Armpitville North Dakota pop. 200. Because it takes more effort on the part of your benefactor, it means you will get less in donations.
    – user21007
    Mar 24, 2011 at 5:07

If it's not necessarily money you want, many websites allow you to set up wishlists of items you want, which people can then buy for you. I know Amazon does this. Many others probably do. (And non-cash donations are probably simpler for tax purposes, I'd guess.)

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