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article imageOp-Ed: Anonymity not as easy as Kickstarter flame-out Anonabox promised

By Ryann Rasmussen     Oct 30, 2014 in Internet
The wireless router that promised complete online anonymity and airtight wireless security hit the Kickstarter world with a goal of $7,500 and ultimately brought in over half a million. All before spectacularly crashing and burning.
Talk about shining so brightly you go supernova before even realizing what’s happening. That seems to be exactly what happened to the little Kickstarter that could — Anonabox.
This wireless router that promised complete online anonymity and airtight wireless security hit the Kickstarter world with a goal of $7,500 and ultimately brought in over half a million. All before spectacularly crashing and burning under speculation of fraud, bailing investors, and the eventual suspension of the campaign by Kickstarter.
It’s easy to see why this handy little device — small enough to fit two of them inside a pack of cigarettes — gained so much support so fast. In a world where investigative journalism and both corporate and government whistleblowers face jail time and the risk of physical injury, online stealth isn’t just about getting away with something.
With so much at stake, creator August Germar seemed like a security savior by offering the masses a simple, plug-and-play device anyone could use, whether at home or in your favorite coffee shop. And this magical box of anonymity was going to be available for just $45. Who wouldn’t want to get behind this idea?
“When we first started building it, I had no idea that anyone would be interested in it,” Germar told 'The Guardian.' “Initially we thought there would be enthusiasm from developers, journalists and librarians. But it turns out there are a lot more regular users. I think it’s not so much about privacy as about freedom of speech...This allows people to access information when people might try to censor them.”
From protecting your privacy and identity to hiding from advertisers, Anonabox promised users encrypted Internet usage without the need to download and configure software or register and use login credentials. All they’d have to do is plug in the portable device, connect using a USB port, and they’d be able to anonymously use programs on the Tor network with ease.
But the rabid enthusiasm quickly turned to scorn amid rumors of a hoax and misrepresentation. Critics first called out Germar and his device on Reddit. Initial protests focused on Germar’s claim that his mini router was the result of four years of hard work and development.
Scrutiny centered on the finished product’s close resemblance to an existing Chinese device. Ultimately, the resemblance was so close that it was found to be downright identical, with identification numbers for the Chinese product in plain sight on the Anonabox. From there, the problems snowballed with a number of bugs to work out and a continuous onslaught of rebuffed claims that just didn't hold up.
Anonabox’s rising star was ready to fall before the first product ever shipped.
“I had thought this would be like push-starting a car,” Germar said in a 'Wired' article. “Instead, it’s been like being handcuffed to a rocket.”
In an attempt to save face, Germar claimed, in the same article, that his initial intention was only to attract developers and beta testers rather than buyers for a ready-to-ship device. But few, including Kickstarter, seem to be buying anything Germar is selling — be it explanations and excuses or the Anonabox.
Despite the disappointing outcome, it is undeniable that the Anonabox struck a nerve with people. The overwhelming support of this device that promised anonymity in a world of excessive over-exposure is telling. No doubt there will be others who scramble to develop a device that can live up to its promises and then we’ll have to consider the implications.
Is the world ready for a genuine online privacy screen? Will the powers-that-be allow devices like the Anonabox to get in the hands of every day cyber surfers? If the Anonabox could guarantee anonymity, would you be queuing up to pre-order the device?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about online privacy, Anonymity, Kickstarter, Anonobox, Internet
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