The company behind the well known desktop web-browser Opera this week launched what is being dubbed a free VPN service for iOS users.
Opera last month launched a similar free VPN service on their desktop client but after closer scrutiny it was found that the supposed VPN was nothing more than a secure proxy. As the term VPN has become more widespread and commonplace it appears that Opera used clever marketing to push a simple proxy service as something more.
After the initial hoorah researchers quickly began to pick apart the service and discovered it clearly wasn’t a VPN service and wouldn’t replace the service a dedicated VPN provided.
Opera VPN leaves users cautious
With the launch of the free VPN service for iOS devices, there has been obvious scepticism after the revelations the desktop service wasn’t all that it was made out to be.
The browser built-in VPN service on iOS devices allows users to select from five different locations including the US, Canada, Germany, Netherlands and Singapore and has the ability to block ads and stop website tracking as part of the package.
This is a completely free service and while all sounds well and good on the surface it has become clear that while you won’t actually pay directly for the limited VPN functionality you will pay in other ways.
Opera VPN intends to recoup the cost of running the limited service by collecting anonymous usage data on how you and others browse the web and interact via the service. This alone goes completely against the ethos of a VPN service in the first place which is intended to protect your privacy and allow you to utilise the web and other services without having any of your usage logged.
Commercial VPN providers such as IPVanish, on the other hand, store no logs and allow you to surf the web without fear that your usage details are being stored.
Nothing for free in this world
Although Opera VPN is happy to block the adverts of other networks another avenue they aim to exploit is by reintroducing their own adverts into your supposed secure VPN browsing session.
Chris Houston the president of SurfEasy who were acquired last year to power the Opera VPN service said “While there are not ads today, advertisements will likely be introduced in the application in the future” and quantified it by claiming it is no different to playing a free game that is funded by the users interaction with the adverts displayed.
Opera and the SurfEasy VPN service are quick to clarify there is a separate “No-Log” VPN service still available for paying customers and they heavily quote the phrase “No-Log” simply because in reality the free service is logging usage.
So while the limited VPN service on the surface may appear free, like the common saying has been for years regarding “Free VPNs” if you aren’t paying for the service then you are the service.
While Opera and SurfEasy can be applauded for being clear about how they intend to make money via the service it is unlikely the majority of users will ever see the blog post and instead download unaware from the app store with the understanding that they are getting a completely free VPN service equivalent to a paid-for one which is not the case.
Smart users interested in actually protecting their privacy should check our Best VPN for iOS guide or our VPN Comparison Guide.