The Redditors amongst you might have noticed the SurfEasy name last week crop up last week, when SurfEasy CEO and founder Chris got involved in a thread discussing the accountability of VPN providers and alleged unethical practices within the industry.
News broke a couple of weeks ago that one of the major VPN providers was selling access to a network of user data for between $1.45 and $20. The response from the privacy community was swift and brought up a pertinent question: Who can we trust?
It’s a good question and one that should be answered. When you use a VPN, you entrust the provider with all your data; with every piece of information that goes into and out of your device. So what questions should you be asking when you choose a VPN provider?
How does their business model work?
It costs money to operate a VPN. Although it’s just one click to turn it on or off on your device, there are people working behind the scenes to ensure that your service runs smoothly and efficiently. Someone has to pay for the staff wages, for the offices, for the marketing – for every cost that occurs when running a company. So if your VPN is free, where is the money coming from?
Well, it’s still coming from you – but in this instance, you’re not the customer, you’re the product.
If your VPN is totally free then most likely, there’s a business model that involves selling your data to the highest bidder. After all, the VPN provider still has to pay the bills. You might be okay with someone selling your data to offer you a free product; that’s fine. But you should at least know – and if you ARE paying for the product, the provider most certainly should not be selling your data as well.
Who are you trusting?
The companies behind some of the most popular VPNs out there do not disclose their identity. Why?
When you give your information to anyone, you should know who they are. Without this information, there can be no accountability, meaning that they can do whatever they like without fear of the repercussions. You wouldn’t hand your car keys over to a masked man, so why hand your privacy over to one?
Is your privacy their main concern?
With the global privacy market on the rise, it’s to be expected that more and more companies are keen to have a piece of the pie. There’s nothing wrong with this. However, if companies are just in the VPN industry for the money, this can compromise their values when it comes to keeping your information to themselves.
If you can find out which company is behind your VPN, do a little research. What’s their reputation? What do their customers say about them? How do they communicate with their users?
If you’re unhappy with the answers to any of these, choose a different provider.
Our answers to these questions**
We are SurfEasy; an Opera Software company. We started with a kickstarter campaign 4 years ago, and 2 years later launched our VPN. This year, we were thrilled to be acquired by Opera, a publicly traded company operating our of Norway, with 350 million active users worldwide and a great reputation for privacy.
We have privacy experts like Michael Geist on our team, to ensure that we’re at the forefront of the privacy industry and to make sure that we’re always on the right track. Our CEO and founder is Chris Houston, a serial entrepreneur with a passion for product development. He is behind some of the past decade’s most innovative mobile media solutions; he became passionate about “privacy by design” after the birth of his son, when he realized just how insecure our images, details and identities are on the web. He started SurfEasy with the goal of making privacy and security accessible to all web users, even those with little technical proficiency. </p>
Chris has worked with some of the mobile giants, including Virgin, Boost and Ampd, so he knows what he’s talking about. He has earned recognition from consumer privacy groups such as the Ontario Privacy Commission for increasing awareness and enabling online security. </span>You can see Chris’ TEDx talk on the need for online privacy here.
Our business model is simple and transparent; we offer 500MB of free data per month, in order for potential customers to try our service and make sure it fits their needs. The cost of the free data is a marketing cost for us, and we offer this in the hope that you will enjoy our service enough to pay for it. Our paid plans operate on a simple structure; it’s $2.99 per month for a mobile subscription or $4.99 per month for up to five devices (computer, phone or tablet).
For some users, it’s more important to keep the service free; they might have budgetary constraints or other financial limitations. For them, we offer opportunities to earn more free data through simple tasks like mentioning us on Twitter. This helps us to market our product and reach more potential customers while allowing you to protect your privacy while staying within your budget. This isn’t for everyone – but if you should choose this option, it’s there.
We’re confident in the quality of our service and our customer support. We have 11 different locations for users to choose from, and we tailor our service in response to our customers’ comments.
To try our service for free, or to sign up straight away, head to surfeasy.com/register. We’re happy to answer your questions on Twitter, Google+ or Facebook and we’re available at [email protected] to help out when you need us.
Don’t give your privacy over to just anyone; make an informed decision.