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Five Crowdfunded Internet Privacy, Security and Circumvention Tools

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, January 9 2014

This is the moment for crowdfunding Internet privacy, security, and circumvention tools.

Since Edward Snowden and his confidants Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Barton Gellman revealed the extent of the National Security Agency's data collection programs, public awareness of Internet security and privacy issues has peaked. In one study, 54 percent of those polled said they wanted more privacy at the expense of some government security. More people are opening up their pocketbooks on sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter to fund the tools, gadgets and applications they need to get some of their privacy and security back.

Here are five of those projects, two of which are new, active campaigns.

An Old Hand At Encryption Expands Services

Although the Seattle-based collective Riseup.net has been providing dissidents with secure email and chat services for more than a decade, the new demand from the general public for their services was taxing their servers. Last August members of StopWatching.Us launched a successful campaign on IndieGoGo for RiseUp to buy more hardware and fund more labor. For more on their efforts, check out this interview with the Free Press's Joshua Levy and open Internet advocate Elizabeth Stark.

You can also watch this video about RiseUp and the need for more private and secure communication:

When Off Really Means Off

Last August also saw the successful funding of OFF Pocket, a “privacy accessory” for your cell phone that blocks all signals: WiFi, GPS and cellular. It is a counter-surveillance tool that Adam Harvey and designer Johanna Bloomfield want to produce on a large scale so anyone can use it.

An Alternative Social Network

Three Italians, former students at the Politecnico di Milano, are crowdfunding their “privacy-aware” social network, Snake. They describe Snake as “an end-to-end encrypted social network that is easy to use and protects your privacy from evil hackers, storage providers and overly curious government agencies.” They promise privacy in both private (one on one) and group conversations, and anonymous user data in case of seizure, and high functionality, even with the additional privacy and security features.

The developers introduce themselves and their social network in this brief video:

They have raised only €857EUR of their €50,021 goal, so if you want this to happen check out their IndieGoGo page.

An RSS News Reader That Circumvents Internet Censorship

Brandon Wiley, a developer from Austin, TX, with experience working for BitTorrent, Inc. and the Tor project, has spent four years building an open source “polymorphic protocol engine” called Dust that can circumvent Internet filtering. He recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund an RSS news reader application called Operator News that uses Dust to circumvent Internet filtering. Operator disguises content as other kinds of traffic, like email or Skype, in order to bypass filters.

Wiley and others explain why Operator is important (Internet freedom!) in this video:

Help fund his project here.

There's Internet in a Suitcase, and Then There's Privacy in a Suitcase

The NSA leaks were not a cash cow for everyone in the Internet privacy and security biz. One failed project (it only raised $8,175 of the $65,000 goal) is the Don't Snoop Me Bro Tunnel, a personal VPN tunnel in a box. On the Don't Snoop Me Bro Facebook page in November the team posted that they are looking into other ways of financing production of the DSMB Tunnels, so we may hear from these guys yet.

Don't Snoop Me Bro Indiegogo Campaign from Don't Snoop Me Bro on Vimeo.