WHEN JANET JACKSON and Luther Vandross sang that "the best things in life are free", they probably didn't have VPN apps in mind, given the year was 1992 and the song was recorded for a 5.5-rated crime comedy caper. Just as well, because if you currently do get your VPN fix free of charge, it's worth considering what the payoff might involve. As the old adage says: if you're not paying for the product, you are the product.
According to a new investigation from Metric Labs - the company behind Top10VPN - the majority of the top-ranking free VPN apps on Google Play and the Apple App Store are either based in China, or have some kind of Chinese ownership.
If that doesn't immediately raise a flag as red as China's, this is why it should: the Chinese government has been clamping down on VPN software in recent years, and any private data funnelled through them may well not remain private for long.
In all, 17 out of the 30 apps analysed had links to China, and 86 per cent had huge privacy issues to boot. Some simply provided no information about whether data was logged or shared with third parties, while others used generic privacy policies with no relevance to VPNs. Others had no policy at all, but several explicitly revealed sharing information with China.
While none of these things are proof of dubious practices, it should at least give you pause for thought. If you care enough about privacy to download a VPN, maybe pay the people you're relying on protecting it in future? µ
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