Why should free VPNs be avoided?
In an article by Warwick Ashford, Senior Analyst of Computer Weekly he reports that almost a third (30%) of the world’s top virtual private network (VPN) providers are secretly owned by six Chinese companies, according to a study by privacy and security research firm VPNpro.
Warwick goes on to say that the study shows that the top 97 VPNs are run by just 23 parent companies, many of which are based in countries with lax privacy laws. Six of these companies are based in China and collectively offer 29 VPN services, but in many cases, information on the parent company is hidden to consumers. Researchers at VPNpro have pieced together ownership information through company listings, geolocation data, the CVs of employees and other documentation.
“We’re not accusing any of these companies of doing anything underhand. However, we are concerned that so many VPN providers are not fully transparent about who owns them and where they are based,” said Laura Kornelija Inamedinova, research analyst at VPNpro.
In a factsheet on VPNs, civil liberties and privacy group Big Brother Watch warn that VPN providers have the potential to see users’ internet activity, “but many paid-for VPNs make it clear that they do not log any of their user’s traffic”.
Big Brother Watch recommends that free VPNs should be avoided because they may not be secure and could track users.
“If you want to be sure your online activity stays private, make sure you choose a VPN which does not log your internet activity and online traffic,” the guidance says. “Not all VPNs are the same. Make sure you do your research before choosing a VPN.”