FTC advises VPN consumers to do their research

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is not the first place you would expect to be offering guidance on purchasing a VPN, especially given the US Government’s open hostility to online encryption. But that is what they have done in a blog posting on their official website.

As well as the basics on why you would use a VPN and how a VPN works (which, to be honest, we have explained much more clearly on this site) they also go on to cite a recent report which issued a consumer warning about some VPN apps.

The risks of using a free VPN

The report, which has been published by the ICSI Networking and Security Group, studied 300 VPN apps and found some startling and worrying facts about them.

They found some of the VPN apps didn’t use encryption at all, some demanded special access to data on your device, and others sold user data to third parties either for advertising purposes or to analyse their usage.

It is important to note that this report is looking almost exclusively at free VPN apps, not the premium providers that we recommend users sign up for on this site. This is a clarification that the FTC does not make in the blog post and, frankly, is an oversight on their part.

Most reputable VPNs keep no user logs and so have no data to sell to third parties. All will offer robust encryption and should seek permission to do nothing other than diverting your internet activity down their encrypted pathway and through their servers.

This is the case with all but a very small minority of the VPNs reviewed on this site. And where it is not the case, we go to great effort to highlight the fact and usually mark the provider down as a consequence. It is also why we warn against using free VPNs in most circumstances.

Sound consumer advice

However, the rest of the points they make about signing up for a VPN are valid ones. They stress that when using a VPN, you are giving the app permission to intercept all of your internet traffic.

This should certainly not be done lightly and is one of the reasons we are at pains to warn users off VPNs such as the one recently endorsed by Facebook, which exploits this for commercial advantage to the expense of user privacy.

The FTC goes on to make some consumer recommendations that we at VPNCompare.co.uk would fully endorse. These include suggestions to research the VPN app before you use it and to review the permissions the app requests. This is absolutely right and in all our reviews and guides we seek to provide all the information you will need about the best VPN providers to this end.

The Best VPNs carry none of these risks

We know that VPN users are looking for strong security and trustworthy privacy protections from their VPN providers. Which is why our Best VPN Services 2018 all offer cast-iron security and privacy protections as well as a number of other features and benefits for all users to enjoy.

We are delighted to see the FTC joining us in encouraging VPN consumers to shop around for the best products.

Perhaps, if they could now persuade the FBI and the NSA to stop their efforts to undermine online encryption, and their colleagues at the FCC  to stop destroying net neutrality and online privacy in the USA, we could all enjoy a safer, more secure, and more private online experience.

David Spencer

Author: David Spencer

David is VPNCompare's News Editor. Anything going on in the privacy world and he's got his eye on it. He's also interested in unblocking sports allowing him to watch his favourite football team wherever he is in the world.

Away from writing, he enjoys reading and politics. He is currently learning Mandarin too... slowly.

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