FTC warns VPN apps might share your data with third parties

Posted 23 February 2018 17:05 CET by Jan Willem Aldershoff

American Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns users that VPN apps don’t provide full anonymity. On its website, the FTC provides several tips that should help users in picking a VPN app. It also explains what a VPN is and what purpose it serves.

“When you use a VPN app, data sent from your phone – be it your browsing data or the apps you are using – is routed through servers located elsewhere,” The FTC explains. The watchdog goes further explaining that a Virtual Private Network (VPN) app can be used to protect internet traffic on open WIFI networks, and that with a VPN it’s possible to appear coming from another location. That’s possible because all traffic is routed through the VPN server, which could be located anywhere.

Users who are shopping for a VPN app should consider several things. One of them is that VPN apps are able to intercept all traffic routed through their network. The FTC especially mentions that researchers found that about 300 VPN apps had potential security and privacy risks.

As the FTC writes on its website, these VPN apps, “did not use encryption; some requested sensitive, and possibly unexpected, privileges; and some shared data with third parties for purposes such as injecting or serving ads, or analyzing the data to see how people are using a particular site or service.”

Another point is that users should be aware that VPN apps don’t provide full anonymity. While your identity might be hidden for visiting sites and services, trust is shifted to your VPN provider. And as stated before, some of them collect data which they share with third parties. Also, websites you visit with a VPN might still collect other identifying information, e.g. when you fill in a form with your email address.

The FTC doesn’t provide a list of known trusted VPN services. A resource that provides at least some help when picking VPN providers is the ThatOnePrivacyGuy’s VPN comparison chart.

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