VPNs are meant to protect your identity, but some VPN app developers may be selling your usage data and more.
Redditor Demigod787 recently posted about an iOS VPN app called Adblock Mobile potentially selling a user's information and usage habits to the highest bidder. Sure enough, in Adblock Mobile's terms and conditions, it lists that the developers are allowed to use your information to:
"Analyze how you use applications and data. For example, we may combine the information, including personally identifying information, that you provide through your use of the Services with information about you that we receive from our Affiliates or third parties…"
Um. What? Basically, this app routes your data to external servers, depending on the location of its users. So you personal information, despite supposedly being protected by a VPN, is actually out there on the interwebs somewhere for some advertiser, manufacturer, or whatever to buy up.
As Redditor liavoid was quick to point out, it looks like this is developer "Jennifer Hernandez's" second account on the App Store, likely meaning "she" was once booted (probably for misuse of VPN services?).
Now, all of that information usage is right there in the app's terms and conditions. That's fair enough, and if you've downloaded and are using this particular VPN ad blocking app, then that's on you, right? Well, if that information isn't disclosed upon setup, then just how likely are you to go digging through the t&c?
So this begs the question: Can we really trust VPN or VPN adblocker apps from the App Store? (Or from anywhere else for that matter?) 9to5 Mac reported on a similar story back in August, where a company called Hotspot Shield was in a bunch of trouble for logging its users usage habits. The app's description declares a "no logs" policy, but in its actual privacy statement, it details "more elaborate logging processes."
This probably isn't news to many of you, but it is a reminder to always read the terms of service for any VPN service, whether it's on your computer or iPhone. Research your VPNs first and make sure it has all the features you want and that it isn't mining your data unbeknownst to you.
That being said, as sinister as it sounds, it's hard to know whether or not VPNs are mining your data anyway. They may say they don't in their terms, but there may be legal jargon or loopholes being exploited. As always, just be careful, do you research, and if something smells fishy, back out ASAP.
Have you had any experience with VPN adblockers or VPN apps in general mining your personal information? Or do you have a favorite app or service that definitely isn't data mining? Sound off in the comments below.