Although it may come as a surprise to everyone that companies employ several deceptive practices while trying to market and grow their brands, it is very much true. One particular market where this practice is very controversial and yet common is the VPN industry. If recent news are proof of anything, it is that even though most VPN brands claim on their official websites that they do not log user data, they often do behind the curtains. With the recent introduction of GDPR laws, more and more companies are coming under severe scrutiny for storing and selling user data to benefit and grow in the market. But even then, several VPNs, particularly free ones, are still continuing their practices regardless of the vigilant efforts made by the authorities to stop them.
Top VPNs that Store and Sell User Data
If you or anyone close to you uses free VPN for online protection against ISPs snooping on your every move, there is a good chance your data is still not only being monitored but also stored. To those who are unaware, a free VPN may seem like a Hail Mary option. However, even free VPNs have got to make their money somehow. They do this by storing and selling sensitive information to big corporations who then release targeted advertisement online, as you can see mentioned in several VPN reviews on well-renowned websites like Critics Thoughts.
The 152 million people who use this famous free VPN claim that it is their best bet against unlocking Netflix and using it for free. However, Hola turns the desktops and mobile phones of every user into exit nodes so that they have a strong hold in the form of a paid business arm. They do this so they can sell the bandwidth of their free VPN to users. In year 2012, several researchers discovered these bugs in Hola's services which caused the VPN users to be tracked all over the internet. If that wasn’t enough, Hola was also caught selling the bandwidth of its users to interested parties without consent.
Even more popular than Hola, Betternet is the free VPN of the masses with over 38 billion users. Every year, Betternet's business model evolves as it recently launched its own VPN router and also has paid subscription plans for interested users online. However, what these 38 billion users do not know is that Betternet also happens to be the biggest law breaker in the form of privacy of users. It tracks and logs the data of all of its users, but also gives its advertisers equal rights to do the same thing. In a recent paper released by CSIRO, which is an Australian Federal Government Agency, Betternet was found to have 14 tracking libraries which is more than any known VPN has ever had.
In other words, while people thought they were using Betternet, Betternet was really just using them and making money in the process too!
Why Do Free VPNs Sell Data?
Free VPNs want to do what any other VPN does but just more easily, they want to make money. They do make money off of ads but as any technically aware individuals know, PPC doesn’t really pay all that well anymore.
When your traffic is routed through the servers of a free VPN, that VPN has to pay for those servers to keep them running. This can end up costing them tens of thousands of dollars.
Anything that has an online presence has an online presence for a reason, it is to make a name for itself and to eventually earn money from it. If Betternet is proof of anything, all free VPNs will eventually start introducing paid subscription after generating a following but in order to get there, they sell themselves for free, while secretly conning users out of their sensitive information.
Conclusion: Is There a Better Way?
Instead of opting for a free VPN, it is recommended that you choose an open source one. Popular options you can choose from include Open on, SoftEther and Freelan. The battle to obtain online privacy is not going to be an easy one and we won’t fool you into believing it is. But, a little awareness goes a long way in protecting yourself online.