Use Free VPN for Porn? You’re Giving Away Your Data, Expert Says

CYBERSPACE—Perhaps the top concern for most users of online porn is a simple one: privacy. Especially in an era when the United States Congress has killed rules that would restrict how internet service providers can harvest and sell customer data, protecting personal information online and when viewing controversial material such as porn seems more important than ever.

The mega-site Pornhub appeared to recognize this problem when it rolled out its own free VPN network, VPNHub. A “Virtual Proxy Network” basically allows users to mask their IP address—the unique series of numbers that identifies a computer’s location in cyberspace—making it at least in theory, more difficult for data harvesters to “see” who a user actually is.

According to data provided by the site Statista, 26 percent of internet users worldwide, more than one in every four, used a VPN to get online in the first three months of 2018. Data cite by Global Web Index also showed that one of every three VPN users said that they use the service to protect their online anonymity — more than for any other reason.

But according to an article published Monday on the tech site TechoPedia the privacy promised by free VPN services may not be very private, and the data users use VPNs to protect is being harvested anyway—by those same VPN companies.

What users fail to understand, wrote cybersecurity expert John Mason, is that VPNs are like lunch. There’s no such thing as a free one. For starters, the costs of server use alone for VPN providers is simply prohibitive. With hundreds of millions of VPN users, and more jumping on the virtual private networks every day, “it’s practically impossible to run a VPN service for millions of people on a charitable basis—at least if you’ll be offering reliable servers.”

Bandwidth and security protocols are also not cheap, meaning that any VPN operator will incur substantial costs, and will require a substantial revenue stream to cover those costs.

That revenue, says Mason, comes from harvesting and selling user data. According to an earlier investigation by Mason published on his own site, The Best VPN, “Most free VPNs simply sell your data to affiliated/partnered companies or to the third party who is willing to pay the most. Some free VPNs have gotten caught using shady practices like injecting ads, referring affiliate traffic and more.”

In other words, Mason says, “when you’re not being sold a product you are most likely the product.” Free VPN serices, he says, are not an exception to that rule.

“You are paying with your data,” Mason wrote. “While I won’t categorically say everybody should stop using free VPNs, I’ll say this: If you use free VPNs, no matter how popular or reliable they appear (or especially the more popular or reliable they appear), know that you are most likely using a data farm.”

Image by Mike MacKenzie  / Flickr Creative Commons 

Written by: Michael French

Originally published on: https://avn.com/business/articles/technology/use-free-vpn-for-porn-youre-giving-away-your-data-expert-says-790072.html

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