Women in the US are advised to use the best VPN service to protect sensitive information after Roe v. Wade was overturned. But not all VPN providers can live up to their privacy and security claims.
Legislators are asking the Federal Trade Commission to take legal action against “deceptive advertising” and “data collection practices.”
The 13th of July, the United States. Rep. Anna Eshoo, Senator Ron Wyden, and Senator Ron Wyden sent a letter to Lina Khan, the Chair of the FTC, to ask for better regulation.
They wrote that the VPN industry is very opaque and that many VPN providers exploit, mislead, and take advantage of unwitting customers.”
Lawmakers complained about a lack of tools to conduct independent VPN audits to support providers’ security claims. They also noted that some VPN review sites are owned by companies that sell security software.
VPNs are involved in shady activities
It can be confusing to choose which VPN app you should trust, especially when there are many companies with shady histories.
Consumer Reports (CR), for instance, found (opens in new tab), that three-quarters were guilty of misleading their customers or making exaggerated claims about the level of protection they offer.
BuzzFeed had revealed (opens in new window) that Sensor Tower, a popular analytics platform, secretly owned at most 20 VPN and ad blocking apps a year prior. This company was able to gather data without consent from millions of users who had downloaded the app on their phones.
Other VPN providers are also failing to meet their no-logs policies, exposing terabytes of private user data and handing over sensitive information to law enforcement.
Many free VPN services use ad trackers to share user data with third-party organizations. A study of 283 Android apps (opens in new tab), found that 72% of free services had at least one third-party tracking library, compared to 35% for premium versions.
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The letter concluded that abortion is illegal or will soon be illegal in 13 US states and that these abusive and exploitative data practice are simply unacceptable.
“We call on the Federal Trade Commission to immediately take action under Section 5 FTC Act to curb abusive and deceptive data practices by companies offering VPN services in order to protect internet users who are seeking abortions. We urge the FTC also to create a brochure to help abortion-seekers with information about how to best protect their data. It should include a clear explanation of the benefits and risks of VPN usage.