How Do Free VPN Providers Make Money?
Since most of the biggest VPN providers cost money, many people have naturally turned to free VPN services. But, if these free providers don’t charge any type of subscription fee, how, exactly, do they make money? Here are some of the ways VPNs generate revenue and how they affect you.
As is the case with other free services like YouTube or Twitch, free VPN providers can make a profit through advertisements.
These can pop up at any time and can be a bit irritating to deal with when trying to use the web. On top of that, they often can’t be closed, which means you might have to waste time watching full ads when you could be doing other things. This can create a very shocking online experience.
2. Cookies and tracking pixels
The inconvenience of ads isn’t the only problem with free VPN providers. Cookies and tracking pixels can also be used to keep tabs on your browsing activity so companies can market to you more effectively.
You’ve probably seen the term “cookies” used when you access a website. These are small data files that are used to remember your surfing behavior. On the other hand, tracking pixels are 1 x 1 pixel graphics hidden in plain sight that can also track your online activity.
Both of these marketing tactics should be of no use when a VPN is active, as your browsing activity should be completely private to you. So if your VPN uses tracking pixels and cookies, your data is seen and used by both your provider and third parties.
3. A Freemium model
You may have heard of the term “freemium” before, especially when using apps. A freemium application or service offers a free version for users, but it is limited in its capabilities and features. Thus, an upgrade to a paid version is always available. These freemium apps can sometimes be so restrictive that users have no choice but to upgrade if they want to access the best features. This may be the case with free VPN providers.
Although you can never upgrade your free VPN account to the premium version, your provider can make a huge profit from users who upgrade to a paid account.
4. VPN Logs
When you use a VPN, your data is fully encrypted and private, right? Not exactly. While many VPN providers provide security for your online traffic, a number of free VPN providers (and even some paid services) do not. This is where VPN logs come in.
VPN logs are databases containing information about users of a given provider. This information can relate to browsing history, connected devices, bandwidth or even IP addresses. But why should VPN providers keep these logs? Well, data is very valuable…
With this type of user data, businesses can better understand and advertise to consumers. Third parties are willing to offer huge sums of money in exchange for this valuable user data. VPN providers know this, and some choose to take advantage of it by selling the data to the highest bidder.
5. Sell Login Information
Even if a VPN provider does not keep logs, there is still data available that can be sold to third parties, including your account email address. With this alone, companies and scammers can target you, giving them a chance to make money from your VPN provider’s actions.
This can lead to spam, phishing emails, and other dangerous communications that could defraud you of sensitive information or money.
Free VPNs aren’t all bad, but the risks are apparent
Even free VPN providers have to make money somehow, and it’s important to keep that in mind if you’re considering getting one. Although there are free VPN providers that offer a secure service to users, many choose to take advantage by exploiting their users. That’s why it’s crucial to review your potential VPN provider to make sure they keep your data private and secure.
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