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Risks with renting your home PC to FluidStack for “up to $50/month”

FluidStack is a service that wants to rent your PC and internet connection and pays “up to 50 USD per month”. This may be an especially tempting offer if you're short on cash and want to make some no-effort passive income. However, you may want to reconsider FluidStack’s offer if you spend a little more time reading the fine print.

Last week, I discussed how the company behind the network-attached storage (NAS) appliance Cubbit plans to operate a datacenter from your home. Cubbit is a relatively expensive piece of hardware and I called them out for wanting to use the hardware you bought to make even more money from you and your internet connection. FluidStack’s promise of “up to $50 per month” compensation sure puts Cubbit’s business plan in perspective.

FluidStack requires that your PC is powered on and idle at least 12 hours a day, and that it’s connected to a residential internet service provider (ISP). If you’ve got more PCs then they’ll only pay you per unique residential IP address. As I discussed in the article on Cubbit, it’s your residential IP address that holds the true value to these companies.

Many residential ISPs — including leading US providers AT&T Internet and Comcast — don’t allow their subscribers to resell their services. In other words, you may be in breach of contract with your ISP if you let FluidStack run commercial services through your internet connection. You may even lose your internet connection.

FluidStack says they may “use your bandwidth to help large businesses generate business intelligence and insights.” They call this service “proxying”. This essentially means they’ll exploit the good reputation of your IP address to bypass content- and access blocking system on behalf of their customers.

Uses for this may include price or content-scraping websites, or crawling the web for “intelligence and insights” such as collecting email addresses or more benign uses. Again, the value lies in your IP address belonging to a residential ISP.

This is likely to impact your IP-address reputation. A lower IP-address reputation may cause you to get blocked from accessing some websites or you’ll be asked to fill in more CAPTCHAs. It can also cause problems when you’re shopping as your order is more likely to be flagged as suspicious or fraudulent.

FluidStack’s other services use your computer as a content delivery network (CDN) node. This means your computer may be used to service videos, images, and other web content. In my opinion, this is one of the more legitimate uses of the service.

Your PC may also be used to transcode video files into multiple formats and resolutions. This is a computer resource-intensive task which a home gaming-PC would be well-suited for. This is probably the least risky service option FluidStack offers.

FluidStack can also use your PC as a virtual private network (VPN) server for people wanting to access streaming video services like Netflix or BBC iPlayer.

You’re opted-in to letting your PC be used for all of these services by default. You can dig through FluidStack’s administration dashboard and disable services individually. You’re warned that disabling any purpose will reduce your potential earnings.

FluidStack recommends disabling the video-streaming option if you use Netflix, Hulu, or any other services. However, you’re still opted into offering this service by default even though FluidStack knows it may get you banned from using these services. A quick web-search reveals plenty of complaints from people who’ve installed FluidStack’s node software only to find themselves blocked from accessing their favorite streaming service afterward.

I suspect FluidStack’s offer of “up to $50 per month” may be little comfort to users who’ll find themselves blocked from their favorite video-streaming service or have their internet access terminated. It’s not like they’ll keep paying you if your PC is no longer connected to the internet.