This debunked Kickstarter project may be the biggest crowdfunding fail to date

AboxCaitlin Dewey | Washington Post | October 16, 2014 – When it launched on Oct. 11, the Anonabox was hailed as a revolution in Internet browsing, a cheap, easy-to-use tool that could help users evade everything from NSA snooping to web censorship.

Four days later, the highly hyped gadget is looking like something far different: One of the most dramatic, and most high-profile, Kickstarter fails of all time.

Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform that previously brought you Pebble, Oculus Rift and one really tricked-out cooler, is no stranger to this type of controversy, of course. Whenever you donate money to an unproven idea, there’s some inherent acceptance of risk — which is why the site indemnifies itself against lawsuits or other damages, right in its terms of service.

But the Anonabox, which has raised more than $600,000 from 9,000 people since going online four days ago, is a curious case. Most Kickstarter controversies erupt after the fact, when a project has been funded and the creator fails to deliver. (Earlier this year, in fact, Washington’s attorney general sued a Tennessee-based project that did just that.)

But funders began to notice problems with the Anonabox — a tiny, affordable Internet router that anonymizes your online activity — long before that point. There were glaring discrepancies, they noted, between creator August Germar’s original description of the Anonabox and actual pictures of the device online. Germar claimed that he had designed the hardware from scratch, when, in fact, the primary components were bought almost off-the-shelf from China.

How Anonabox works (Anonabox)
He had also claimed, on Kickstarter and in interviews, that the hardware and software in Anonabox were both “open-source,” meaning that there’s no copyright on them — anyone can tinker with the code and the circuit board, a critical feature to wide swaths of the geek and development communities. But since Germar didn’t make the hardware himself, it likely isn’t open-source. And while the software may very well be, Germar hasn’t yet released it … and many critics, citing details Germar has previously leaked in interviews, don’t believe it will be secure.

In other words, Anonabox may indeed anonymize your web traffic — but it won’t necessarily do it any differently from other, similar gadgets already on the market, and it might not do it to the degree it promises. Which is, presumably, what backers were paying for.
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