Free VPNs are selling your data – and it’s not illegal!

To ensure the safety of their privacy and to surf anonymously online millions of users worldwide use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). As with all providers there are good and bad ones – and the bad ones do not take the security of your data all that serious.

Things you would not believe a VPN provider would do

A couple of weeks ago The Best VPN conducted an investigation that led to the result that 26 of the 117 most popular VPNs were secretly saving their users’ data- despite claiming differently on their websites. Not cool, right? But wait: it gets worse.

The Best VPN then took the investigation to the next level: Thanks to the new GDPR that is now enforceable, it was possible for the website to take a deeper look into how some of those VPN service providers use the collected user data; and it doesn’t look good. Especially free VPNs seem to sell their information to … well, anyone who wants them apparently.

Shouldn’t this be illegal?

Strictly speaking what they are doing is not even illegal. They are stating the use of your data in their privacy policy after all. Sadly people normally do not tend to read those. With some of their practices this can lead to a regular ISP being safer than the VPN you are using.

According to The Best VPN the best known free VPNs with questionable practices are Hotspot Shield, Hola, and Betternet, all of which have several million users. A closer look reveals the following:

  • Hotspot Shield’s practices are not new. Selling and sharing user data as well as hijacking and redirecting traffic is common practice for them and has led to a petition being filed against the free VPN provider.

    Image: thebestvpn.com
    Image: thebestvpn.com
  • Hola is a VPN we’ve already talked about in the past and their practices are hopefully well known by now. They will sell your bandwidth – which means that the user who buys it (via their paid VPN service for example) could use it to perform illegal acts all the while you would be blamed. Not. Cool.

    Image: thebestvpn.com
    Image: thebestvpn.com
  • Betternet tracks and logs your data and allows their advertisers to do the same, which is horrible, since they have the highest number of tracking libraries of all free VPNs.

    Image: thebestvpn.com
    Image: thebestvpn.com

The list goes on and on, and if you are using a free VPN service you should definitely take a look at it.

There are alternatives

In the end those shady practices make sense, in some kind of horrible and twisted way. Without any other possibility to make money – like a subscription fee – the providers need to find some other way in order to stay profitable. After all the servers they use to provide you their service do not come for free and in the end they are a business and want to make money. This does not make what they are doing better though and we would never condone such practices.

If you are willing to put up with your data being sold – go for it. We would never ever recommend it though. There are alternatives out there – even free ones if you can live with some limitations.

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PR & Social Media Manager @ Avira |Gamer. Geek. Tech addict.