How free VPN services earn on your data

Published Categorized as Innovation

Every day, free VPN services offer privacy and security to millions of users. These VPN apps allow users to access their service for free, and sometimes they don’t have a paid option or a significant corporate budget. What users fail to realize is that no company will do charity work, so the question is: how do these apps profit from you? Well, there are several ways, and you probably won’t like them.

Selling your data

Selling data is a simple way for free VPN providers to generate revenue. It’s fairly simple: they capture your data directly from your device and store it in a personal folder. The information is then sold to any company that has any interest in obtaining it. Keep in mind that they gather all kinds of data, including your location, messages, searches, as well as any traffic that passes through your phone or is saved on your device. But, hey, at least you get to use the app for free, right?

There have been numerous cases in the past where large VPN providers have been caught selling user information. For example, BuzzFeed revealed a few years ago that millions of users who downloaded popular VPN and ad-blocking apps were secretly contributing data to Sensor Tower, a well-known analytics platform for tech businesses and investors.

Unfortunately, most users have no idea which apps have access to their data, and even if they do, most people don’t consider it a huge deal. However, they definitely should. Large levels of access to information could potentially give VPNs authority over your device, meaning that some free VPNs could erase or edit specific data on your device. Isn’t that unsettling? 

Creating Botnets

“Botnet” is short for “robot network.” Simply put, these bots are frequently administered by a third party and are composed of infected computers. Botnets are commonly used to take over devices and perform spam attacks, spread malware, and so on. Using a trustworthy VPN can prevent botnets from connecting to your device, while using a free VPN can have the opposite effect.

In 2015, for example, a source discovered that HolaVPN’s free users were signing up their computers to be part of a botnet. According to the company’s founder, this was a part of the agreement HolaVPN negotiated with users before they signed up. In the end, hackers managed to gain control of every free account on the VPN’s network and utilized it to create a large botnet they could then use to launch anonymous malware attacks.

Using you data for marketing

Free VPNs have yet another negative consequence. They sell your information to companies who then target you with pop-ups or adverts that don’t necessarily direct you to secure websites. Because they target these adverts using data from your VPN provider, they will know exactly which ads to show you. It could become increasingly unpleasant over time, as every search or purchase you make will result in a fresh wave of ads. Along with an increase in ads, your connection will become considerably slower.

They may also sell your email address to their marketing partners, exposing you to spam, phishing emails, and other potentially harmful messages.

Is it worth it?

The number of ways to profit off users does not end here, but we can say with certainty that the majority of them are unsafe. In most cases, the money is made without the user’s knowledge and in ways that undermine their privacy, data, security, and devices.

At the end of the day, why use a free VPN? Yes, you get to enjoy free services, but your personal information is compromised. The problem with such products is that they present themselves as a functional safe app, but their true intentions are completely contrary, which defeats the purpose of a VPN. This paradox is often referred to as The Privacy Paradox. You want privacy and security, but in order to get it, you must give it up.

Of course, not all free VPN providers sell your information and earn on users, there are several excellent free VPNs available. However, we advise you to choose them with caution. One thing you can do to choose a reliable VPN is to consider free services of paid providers. This way, you get the same VPN quality from a company with a budget for free, but with certain limitations. Another way to keep yourself safe is to carefully read the VPN’s terms and conditions to ensure that you agree with all that is included.

What makes ForestVPN special?

Most importantly, our app does not collect your data. We do not keep user activity logs and do not sell any information to third parties. What you do while connected to ForestVPN is only known to you. If you were to use our free version, it would be obvious to you how we make profits: through advertising. ForestVPN’s intentions and profits are crystal clear to any user.

Our primary goal is to provide users with fast and secure VPN services, allowing them to enjoy online freedom. That’s it!