Posted on August 9, 2017 at 7:40 PM
A new controversy in the world of VPNs has occurred revolving around a Virtual Private Network provider Hotspot Shield. The provider has been established in 2008 in the US and since has managed to get downloaded half a billion times. The way in which the provider got to this number was due offering free service for the 97% of their users.
But a non-profit group under the name of Center for Democracy and Technology has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission in which it expressed their concern about the VPN provider conducting unfair and deceptive trade practices. The complaint was 14 pages long. But here’s where things start to get interesting – it’s clearly stated that in Hotspot’s terms of service they have the right to collect user activity information and share the acquired information with third parties.
This idea is, of course, completely crazy, making the 14 pages long complaint from CDT very understandable.
Hotspot Shield has been found to have many other issues, too. According to a recent study, it has been discovered that the apps contain tracking software, which means it both records its users’ activities and sells the acquired data to advertisers. The researchers from Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization found five different tracking libraries in the code of Hotspot Shield.
As if this isn’t enough, the study also found that the VPN provider redirects users to affiliate links once they enter certain websites, which means that Hotspot Shield gets a commission in case their users buy anything from the connected sites.
Hotspot Shield has been contacted to comment on the issue and a statement has been received.
Among other things, the official statement said that the information provided to the company by their users is never associated with their online activities. They denied storing user IP addresses and stated that they protect their users’ personally identifiable information from themselves as well as third parties.
They added that the claims made by CDT were unfounded and while they are glad that the group is concerned about their users’ privacy being protected, they weren’t glad that CDT didn’t try to contact the provider first and ask them the questions they had.