On Kickstarter, campaigns usually have one of the two possible outcomes: either they’re successful or not. In Anonabox’s case, however, things are a bit more complicated, as Kickstarter had to cancel the project altogether.
The crowdfunding campaign for the Anonabox privacy router seemed very promising, in the beginning. More precisely, in just a few hours since the campaign’s debut, backers had already pledged more than 10 times the $7,500 needed for mass-producing this network equipment. Five days later, and August Germar, the developer of this privacy router, already had 82 times more than the campaign’s goal, and all that simply because he convinced a lot of people that this $45 privacy-focused router could protect users by running all the data through the Tor network with the help of some custom-built hardware components. It turns out that Germar misled customers into believing all that, all the while using purchased items and claiming that he had built them himself.
As a consequence, Kickstarter has decided to cancel the project altogether and to return all pledged money to the backers. In a letter addressed to them, the crowdfunding site explained that “a review of the project uncovered evidence that it broke Kickstarter’s rules.” Not much else was said, except that the rules included “offering purchased items and claiming to have made them yourself,” “presenting someone else’s work as your own” and “misrepresenting or failing to disclose relevant facts about the project or its creator.”
Kickstarter users pointed out earlier this week that some of the components that Germar claimed to have been custom built were in fact available on Chinese websites such as Alibaba. When confronted with the evidence, Germar explained that some of the hardware used in the prototype was actually made by Chinese manufacturer Gainstrong. On top of that, the default settings of the router leave the wireless network open. The root password is encoded, fact that makes the router even more susceptible to attacks.
Germar expressed his disappointment by saying that “I had thought this would be like push-starting a car. Instead, it’s been like being handcuffed to a rocket.”
I’m glad that Germar’s plan was debunked. At the same time, I wonder exactly how far did he think he would get before someone pointed out the obvious problems. Kickstarter is a platform for making dreams come true, and the ones trying to take advantage of it and its users should be exposed for the whole world to see!
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