If you’ve read my post about the 13 steps to improve your privacy online, you would have read the part where I talk about using a VPN.
Before you do, let me just issue a word of caution:
Try not to use a free VPN.
Because most free VPNs sell your data without telling you!
If the company behind the VPN is not making money off their product, this typically means that you’re the product– and they make money on you.
This is why I’ve made a list of some free VPNs that (at least) admit that they sell your data and I hope this will help you decide whether or not a free VPN is worth your online privacy.
Ten VPNs That Admit to Selling Your Data
1. Betternet (38 million users)
Betternet is a relatively new VPN that has quickly risen in popularity.
They tell you that they make money by offering free sponsored apps and through videos and other ads. They also allow advertisers to track and log your information.
Apart from being one of the more secure VPNs out there, they also offer a substantial 3GB monthly data.
They make money by sharing your user activity data with third parties.
They also limit the number of servers you can access in order to get you to upgrade.
3. Hola (150+ million users)
Hola is unsurprisingly one of the most popular free VPNs by offering free unlimited data without ads.
A group of security researchers have said “Hola is harmful to the internet as a whole, and to its users in particular. You might know it as a free VPN or “unblocker”, but in reality, it operates like a poorly secured botnet – with serious consequences”.
Hola may turn your computer into an exit node and sell access to your computer and network to third-parties through Luminati– their commercial brand.
How do you opt out of this scheme:
Subscribe to their premium subscription.
But, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse:
It seems Hola can be exploited to allow anybody to execute programs on your computer!
If you’re like me and immediately visited the Hola FAQ page, you may wonder where all of the above was said.
If you read through the findings of the group of researchers that I mentioned above, you’ll discover that Hola actually tried to change history quietly once the media started getting involved.
They also make it clear in their terms of service that by using Hola you become a peer on their paid Luminati network — in other words, access to your computer could be sold to people paying to use their services.
4. HotSpot Shield (500+ million users)
Hotspot Shield is hands down the most popular free VPN service.
With that many users, HotSpot becomes a goldmine– both for users and advertisers.
While they make it clear in their terms of service that they display ads to free users (which they display in front of apps and websites you use), it also makes money off users through other means— like sharing free user data and redirecting their traffic to third-party affiliate sites.
5. HoxxVPN (5+ million users)
HoxxVPN is a popular VPN.
If you manage to read through its long and confusing logging policy, you’ll find that they log your information for their own purpose and share it with 3rd parties
However, if you try to read it over and over again, you’ll soon understand that HoxxVPN makes money on you by logging your information for their own purposes to share it with 3rd parties.
6. Opera VPN
Once you install the Opera browser, you instantly gain access to the free Opera VPN.
7. Onavo Protect
Onavo Protect is owned by Facebook so it isn’t shocking that they were recently in the news for their data usage practices.
Onavo does say that they log user data and share this information with affiliates and third-parties.
They make money on you by using your information for advertising and marketing purposes as well as displaying ads to you.
8. Psiphon (1+ million users)
Psiphon has been a free VPN since 2008.
They’ve survived over ten years by sharing your data with advertisers and letting advertisers track your data usage and through displaying ads.
TouchVPN is another sketchy free VPN.
They do state that they share your “anonymous” data with third parties for marketing purposes, they don’t say what “anonymous data” includes.
They make money on you by adding Cookies, Pixel Tags, and Web Beacons to your browser while using their service.
10. ZPN (8+ million users)
ZPN is another popular VPN.
They offer a whopping 10GB of monthly data– which is nothing to snort at.
They make money on you by sharing your data with their affiliates.
They also try to get you to upgrade to a paid plan by limiting your bandwidth and data, disabling P2P and torrenting, as well as limiting you to just 5 locations.
In the end:
I can’t say I recommend using free VPNs.
When dealing with them, always remember to read the fine print and If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.