Before explaining why the use of a free VPN can be hazardous, it is necessary to go back to the very principle of the VPN and its business model. A VPN is a computer system that allows you to quickly and smoothly relocate your Internet connection to servers located around the world. In other words, you will connect your PC to a server, which will surf the Internet instead of your PC. The data that is received and sent to this server is then encrypted and theoretically inviolable.
The principle is relatively simple to understand and relatively simple to implement when you have some computer knowledge. After all, nothing would prevent you from having a server in your room and making it an access point for a VPN. But VPN providers do not only have one.
More than 50% of free VPNs have more than 3 data trackers
It was revealed in 2016 by a study published by CSIRO (an Australian government agency for scientific research). It examined the content and permissions required by VPN applications for Android after taking a closer look at a corpus of 283 VPNs. From this study, we should note that while two-thirds of paid VPNs have no trackers, this figure drops to less than 30% when it comes to free VPNs. Worse, more than half of the free VPNs had three or more. And that’s not to mention the number of malware present in these applications.
In addition to this unpleasant observation in terms of privacy, there is also a lack of functionalities that we have to expect from a VPN. There is currently no free VPN available to bypass Netflix’s geoblocking and access its American catalog. Few, if not non-existent, are those that allow peer-to-peer downloading. In short, in addition to selling your data to third parties, they do not even provide the necessary uses expected from such a service.
What to do without a pricing model? Resell data!
Not only to ensure software monitoring (connection encryption, kill switch, split tunneling), but also technical control worthy of the name (to ensure the speed and stability of the connection) therefore requires resources. And currently, the only way to maintain this network and provide a satisfactory quality of service is to charge the user. And that’s when the problems with free VPNs start to arise.
Free VPNs then have only two solutions to generate money. The first is to restrict the connection speed or data that passes through their servers to encourage users to switch to paid services. These are the most honest free VPNs but also the most inconvenient.
The other solution is as old as the Internet, “if it’s free, you’re the product.” They include trackers (in the best case) or even malware. In the VPN world more than anywhere else, it is advisable to rely on the major brands to ensure that your data is safe.