Safe Wi-Fi: the Verizon VPN without a privacy policy

Last week, we reported on the news that one of America’s biggest and most data-hungry ISPs, Verizon, was launching its own VPN service.

Called Safe Wi-Fi, Verizon claims that the service is intended to keep their users safe when connecting to public Wi-Fi and other insecure connections. Privacy experts questioned the real motivation behind Safe Wi-Fi, suspecting it was another ruse to enable the company to snaffle up user data.

And it seems they were right to be cynical. Because an investigation by Motherboard has revealed that the VPN that Verizon is asking you to trust your online privacy to, does not actually have a privacy policy of its own.

A glaring oversight

It seems like a truly remarkable and monumental oversight, but it is true. A search of the Safe Wi-Fi terms of service shows that, under the privacy and security section, the product simply redirects users to the general privacy policy of McAfee, the online security company which Verizon worked with in developing Safe Wi-Fi.

And if you are wondering whether they have a robust privacy policy of their own for Verizon to fall back on, the answer is a resounding no!

The McAfee general privacy policy allows both them and Verizon to collect a slew of data about users. This includes details such as carrier data, Bluetooth device IDs, mobile device ID, mobile advertising identifiers, MAC address, and IMEI data.

Even more worrying for Safer Wi-Fi users, it explicitly states that McAfee and Verizon are about to collect user browsing data for purpose of providing targeting advertising.

In other words, much like Facebook’s Onavo product, Safe Wi-Fi is anything but a VPN. VPNs provide users with online security and privacy and help keep their online data away from third-parties.

Both Onavo and Safe Wi-Fi do the exact opposite of this. They harvest user data to enable their parent companies, Facebook and Verizon respectively, to monetize that data.

Verizon claim privacy policy is an oversight

After Motherboard approached Verizon with this revelation they have been backpedalling furiously. They claim that this privacy policy doesn’t reflect what Safe Wi-Fi actually collects and stress that “neither Verizon nor McAfee collect any personal data regarding its users or use of the Safe Wi-Fi VPN.”

But their own privacy policy, which remains online completely contradicts this claim. They went on to claim that they were currently in the process of developing a privacy policy for Safe Wi-Fi.

But they provided no details about what this new policy would contain or any indication of the time-frame for it to be put into place.

You have to ask why neither Verizon or McAfee didn’t think that it might be necessary to develop a clear product-specific privacy policy for their online privacy tool before launching it and asking customers to shell out $4 a month for it.

They seem to think that users will be happy to trust them with their online privacy. But the fact is Verizon has a shocking record of abusing their user’s data and privacy for financial gain.

Just one example of this is that Verizon was found to have modified wireless packets to track user’s internet habits and not informing anyone of the practice for two years. They received a fine of $1.35 million from the FCC for that.

We have also reported previously on their close links to Ajit Pai, the current chair of the FCC who is a former Verizon employee and currently responsible for a shocking rollback of online privacy and net neutrality laws across the USA.

Don’t use Safe Wi-Fi, choose a proper VPN

The fact is that Verizon has proven in its actions with Safe Wi-Fi and in numerous previous cases, that it has absolutely no interest in protecting its user privacy but is focused solely on maximizing its shareholder’s profits at any cost.

So, should you trust Verizon’s new VPN service? Absolutely not!

There are a whole host of reputable VPNs providers out there who have a proven record of standing up for user privacy. The likes of ExpressVPNIPVanish, and NordVPN offer a much better service, with a proper and proven privacy policy, for the same outlay as you will spend on Safe Wi-Fi.

What is more, these VPNs can also help to stop ISPs like Verizon from routinely recording and all your online data when connecting to their Wi-Fi network too.

It is an absolute no-brainer. Verizon wants you to trust them with your online privacy. But they have shown no reason why you should. Don’t. If you want to stay private when using public Wi-Fi, or indeed Verizon’s broadband service, don’t use Safe Wi-Fi, use a proper VPN

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