Opera has made headlines in recent days by becoming the first major Internet browser to include a VPN as part of its built-in features, but many are asking if the incorporation of a free VPN is a good privacy solution.
In April of 2016, Opera Software began testing its free VPN feature. The Norwegian-based company was acting on the growing awareness among individuals that using a VPN is a smarter way to browse the Internet. Those who work in IT-related fields or use the Internet extensively have long appreciated the value of a VPN, but even those whose Internet use is limited are recognizing that web browsing without some form of privacy protection introduces a vast array of security concerns. It is also noteworthy that the Opera browser has steadily increased in popularity, especially on mobile devices that use the Android and iOS operating systems.
How Does the Opera VPN Work?
The first thing users should understand is how the Opera VPN works. It is packaged with the latest update of the browser and can be used on any device where the browser is installed. Turning it on is accomplished with a simple click and users can choose from VPN servers in Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, and the United States.
The VPN works like a paid VPN. Once the user is connected to their chosen VPN server, a 256-bit AES encrypted connection creates the tunnel that provides a certain measure of anonymous Internet browsing. There is also no logging of browsing history while connected to the Opera VPN.
It all sounds secure, but in looking a little bit deeper at the specifics of Opera’s VPN there are some significant concerns that users might want to resolve for themselves before trusting the browser with keeping their browsing habits and personal data safe.
Who Provides the Opera VPN?
Opera’s bundled VPN is provided by SurfEasy, an Opera subsidiary. SurfEasy also offers a paid VPN service which they describe as a “full” version of their VPN. It costs between $6.49 and $11.99 per month. The first question, then, is why would SurfEasy give something away for free that they are charging others for?
One logical answer is that SurfEasy and their parent company Opera hope to use the browser-based VPN as a tool to convince users to purchase VPN service from SurfEasy at the regular price. Users might be inclined to do just that when they realize that the free Opera VPN can only be used within that browser. Users can be prepared to receive numerous sales pitches for paid service when they use the free version.
It is hard to see beyond this free VPN as little more than an effort by SurfEasy to sell paid VPN service.
What is the Risk of Using Opera’s Free VPN?
The biggest concern where free VPN service is concerned is that one’s browsing preferences are not as anonymous as the user thinks. Many free VPN providers depend on advertiser revenue to keep themselves in business. Ads are served up within the browser platform that are tailored to a user’s history. This isn’t new; Google does the same thing. The problem is that free VPNs make the claim that your browsing sessions aren’t logged or tracked. If you’re seeing ads based on sites you have visited, something is tracking your sessions. The whole point of using a VPN is to create security and anonymity.
Another risk is presented by the fact that Opera’s free VPN only works within the Opera browser. If you open another browser while connected, the data passed in that browser is not encrypted. What if you are using a service like Skype or an app that does not require a browser? Your use is not anonymous. You also won’t be able to bypass geographical restrictions the same way you can with a paid VPN which does not require a specific browser to function. Because Opera is often used on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, it is easy to assume that the VPN is connected whenever you have Wi-Fi enabled. This is not true. The full, paid version of SurfEasy is the only version that reroutes all of the traffic from a user’s computer or device. It seems like adding a VPN is something Opera hopes will convince more people to use their browser.
VPN Accounts Offers a Better Solution
At VPNaccounts.com, our VPN packages are compatible with any computer or device that has a VPN client. Almost every computer, tablet, and smartphone made today comes with a VPN client pre-installed. You do not need to download any software or a special browser to use our VPN. We have multiple server locations for you to choose from, more than those available with the Opera VPN.
We guaranteed that no logs are kept of your browsing session, and we do not sell any of your data to third-party advertising companies. You can browse with confidence that your preferences and the sites you visit are not being tracked. Finally, you can use our VPN with Chrome, Firefox, IE, or whichever browser you prefer. All of the traffic from your device is encrypted with the latest technology for true privacy and security.