We can’t be any clearer, ‘Do not use a free VPN – ever!’ Disturbing new research shows hundreds of millions of people are using free VPNs and their data could end up in China – or far worse.

Top10VPN research is disturbing on two counts. First, that free VPNs regularly creep into Google Play and Apple App stores with apparent impunity. Banned apps simply reappear under another name.

Remember if the service is free, the service is you.

Second, of the top 20 (by volume of downloads) 59% have links to China (e.g. no privacy), and 86%have unacceptable privacy policies including selling your data and targeting advertising.

In other words – ‘Do not use a free VPN – ever!”

Sorry if we repeat this mantra, but we need to get it through reader’s heads that there is no such thing as free lunch when it comes to VPNs.

TOP10VPN’s findings:

  • 55% of websites and privacy policies use amateur hosting, e.g. no commitment
    • Free WordPress sites with ads
    • Plain text files on Pastebin
    • Text files on Amazon servers
    • Text files on raw URLs, such as IP addresses
  • 64% of apps have no website – many have no online presence beyond app store listings.
  • Most make it very difficult to find out where they are based and who is involved. For some, it is impossible to track down the provider.
  • 52% of customer support emails are personal accounts, e.g. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo etc
  • 83% of customer support emails had no response

VPN 101

A VPN is there to protect your data by encrypting it from your computer device to the VPN server.  Legitimate VPNs go to extreme lengths to protect you.

Free VPN apps have little-to-no formal privacy protection. Also, the Chinese (or other governments – now including Australia, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Denmark, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Sweden and New Zealand) can demand encryption keys to see everything you do online.

Do not use a free VPN – ever!

It is like Facebook offering its free Onavo VPN simply to track a user’s movements outside Facebook. Public outcry at this deceptive behaviour (what is new at Zuckerberg HQ?) has done nothing to stop Facebook promoting its so-called privacy app Onavo. This free VPN still sits on Apple App store and Google Play sucking in millions of gullible people.

Do not use a free VPN – ever

From Facebook’s every effusive and euphemistic, bovine excrement-oriented PR department:

Onavo provides people with a free VPN app that creates a safer connection while you’re using apps or accessing the web on your phone. As part of providing the service, Onavo collects information about app usage to gain insights into the products and services people value, so we can build better experiences. We’ve always been clear when people download Onavo about the information that is collected and how it is used, including by Facebook. We let people know before they download the app and on the first screen, they see after installing it. Also, people can opt-out via the control in their settings, and their data won’t be used for anything other than to provide, improve and develop Onavo products and services. Websites and apps use Onavo for market research services for years. We use Onavo, App Annie, comScore, and publicly available tools to help us understand the market and improve all our services.

In addition to TOP10VPN free VPNs research, there is a litany of sins including outright lies about privacy protection

As reported by Restore Privacy:

  • Stolen credit card and pins details (it is so easy to monitor for a string of numbers) as well as delivery addresses
  • Installed crypto coin mining software or made the device part of a DDOS botnet
  • Install malware, ransomware, trojan advertising, spyware (keylogging, camera and microphone)
  • Redirected to adult sites making money from click-bait
  • Blackmailed users for accessing prohibited sites (adult and child porn, fetish, religious extremism, etc)
  • Sell data to advertisers
  • Installing tracking libraries
  • Redirect search and sites to advertisers