But what if the very thing that promises to protect your privacy, actually became the threat you're trying to prevent? That's a concern being raised in a new study regarding numerous free mobile VPN apps available for you to download right now.
The report uncovered that many of the top free VPN apps in both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store come from developers based in China, or at the very least have Chinese ownership. We've got the names of many of those apps, and the numbers may surprise you.
Many VPN apps based in China top the search list
"Our investigation uncovered that over half of the top free VPN apps either had Chinese ownership or were actually based in China, which has aggressively clamped down on VPN services over the past year and maintains an iron grip on the internet within its borders," Simon Migliano told ZDNet.
Migliano is the Head of Research at Metric Labs, which is a company that runs the Top10VPN portal. During his study, he searched for VPNs in both Apple and Android mobile app stores, then analyzed the top 20 results. Migliano took a look at 30 apps and discovered that 6o% of them were linked to China, either by location or ownership. He also said a majority of those apps had "unnacceptable privacy policies," due to some being too vague, while others outright say your data is being tracked and shared with third parties, along with others that had no policy at all.
Here's the list of VPN apps that the study found to have Chinese ties (in alphabetical order):
- Free VPN by FreeVPN.org
- Hotspot VPN
- Secure VPN
- Shield VPN
- Sky VPN
- Snap VPN
- Super VPN
- Super VPN Free VPN client
- Thunder VPN
- Turbo VPN
- Victory VPN
- VPN 360
- VPN Guru
- VPN - Master Proxy
- VPN Patron
- VPN Private
- VPN Proxy Master
- VPN - Super Unlimited Proxy
- VPN Wifi Proxy Security Master
Exercise caution with apps on this list
Even if for personal use, double-check the VPN you're using. If you're conducting business through one of these VPNs, be aware that information could be logged on Chinese servers and possibly exploited. Instead of using one of the free apps above, look for a VPN provider with clear policies and a verifiable address.
Be completely anonymous online
Advertisers, cybercriminals and maybe even the NSA track your online habits. But there is a way to stay anonymous without having to install anything on your computer.