Hotspot Shield VPN privacy called into question by CDT

Hotspot Shield VPN

By now most savvy users should be aware free VPN services pretty much suck. If you needed any more evidence of this a recent complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission in the United States against the free VPN service Hotspot Shield VPN should be enough to convince you.

The Center for Democracy & Technology also known as the CDT filed a complaint on Monday arguing that the privacy claims made by the free VPN service are at best overstated and at worst outright lying.

Privacy what?

The main purpose of a VPN service is to protect your online privacy and there are countless numbers of reputable paid for VPN services such as IPVanish that you essentially employ to carry out this job for you.

There are also an equal number of free VPN services but the assumption has long been that if you aren’t paying for the service then somehow you are the service.

The networking required to run a reliable VPN is vast and costly and without paying for a VPN service the company behind it needs to generate revenue in other ways. The usual result is in you being targeted with adverts or your personal data being sold.

Hotspot Shield under fire

This is exactly what Hotspot Shield is being accused of in the filing by the CDT.

On one hand Hotspot Shield claim their product protects users’ data but details revealed by the CDT show that their privacy policy contradicts this by allowing the company to collect data and more worryingly, share it.

A more concerning issue raised is that the CDT says that the product also injects javascript to carry out advertising and tracking of its users.

In a recent ruling in the United States regulations have been overturned that now allow ISPs to sell data on their users. It appears one of the main gripes of the CDT complaint is that Hotspot Shield is capitalising on this fear only to be caught doing the very same thing that they are supposed to protect against.

If things couldn’t get worse, the complaint reveals that Hotspot Shield does not even guarantee to use a proxy IP or use VPN functionality on certain websites which essentially means the service can pick and choose which sites to anonymise its users on.

Hotspot Shield has yet to respond to criticisms, however, as of 00:59 BST on 8th August 2017 they are still advocating their service to users via Twitter with tweets such as “It’s as important as ever to protect your privacy. Check out Hotspot Shield”.

Free vs Paid

Hotspot Shield is without a doubt one of the biggest “free” VPN services around and with a combined app download total of between 60 – 150 million installs on the Android app store alone it seems running a free VPN service is big business.

Hotspot Shield isn’t the first free service to be caught with its pants down after Hola was accused back in 2015 of utilising users’ systems to create the free network it was offering.

The latest revelations confirm that choosing a VPN service is an incredibly difficult task. Privacy advocates suggest creating your own VPN service but for the average user that is generally out of reach and creating a global network would be unobtainable.

Currently the best option is to opt for a reputable paid-for VPN service that you are paying to do the job of protecting your privacy. Some we recommend include IPVanish, ExpressVPN and VPN.ac but you should do further research by comparing on our VPN Comparison Guide and reading the privacy policies of each provider you’re intending to sign up to.

One thing is certain, you get nothing for free and the age old saying should be well remembered in the case of “free” VPN services, if you’re not paying for the service then you are the service.

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