Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Anna Eshoo want the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to do something about the VPN industry’s unfair and misleading practices. They say VPNs give many Americans more privacy and security, but some VPN providers can make too many promises or lie to their customers.
A hot topic
VPNs are useful for people who want to use the Internet safely and privately. They are essential for people who tell the government about wrongdoing and for people who fight back against government oppression.
VPNs have recently become a hot topic in mainstream media in the United States. Anti-abortion laws in the U.S. have made people more interested in privacy services because of the possibility of criminal penalties. One problem is that not all VPN services take privacy seriously.
Lawmakers want the FTC to keep an eye on VPNs
Since there aren’t many VPN rules, Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Anna Eshoo are sounding the alarm. In a letter they sent to FTC chair Lina Khan last week, they asked her to do something.
“We write to urge you to use your authority to take enforcement actions against the problematic actors in the consumer Virtual Private Network (VPN) industry, focusing particularly on those that engage in deceptive advertising and data collection practices,” the letter reads.
“The VPN industry is extremely opaque, and many VPN providers exploit, mislead, and take advantage of unwitting consumers,” the lawmakers add.
Several reports and studies have already pointed out problems in the VPN industry. They often happen when there is a lot of competition. Many VPNs look out for their customers’ best interests, but others want to make money.
This can lead to dodgy VPNs collecting and selling user data or promising not to log personal data while handing “logged” data to the authorities. As a result of the anti-abortion laws, these are serious problems that have raised new worries.
“Leading groups advise women seeking abortions that VPN with ‘no-log’ policies can be trusted to protect their data. While many popular VPN providers aggressively market their ‘no-log’ policies, allowing users to anonymously surf the web, verifying their claims is nearly impossible.
“In various cases, VPN providers that advertise a strict ‘no-log’ policy have provided user activity logs to law enforcement,” the lawmakers add, pointing to a logging debacle at one of the larger VPNs.
The letter summarizes all the issues. The research looked at how several free VPN apps collected and shared data, and Consumer Reports uncovered overblown claims, such as “military-grade encryption.”
The spotlight is also on VPN review sites. Affiliate links are often found in these reviews, which could lead to bias. This also applies to some of VPN companies’ more significant review sites.
Senator Wyden and Rep. Eshoo are fine with VPNs. They think it’s vital. The FTC should remove rotten apples when it can. Benefits and dangers could also be helpful.
“We urge the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take immediate action under Section 5 of the FTC Act to curtail abusive and deceptive data practices in companies providing VPN services to protect internet users seeking abortions.
“We also urge the FTC to develop a brochure for abortion-seekers on how best to protect their data, including a clear outline of the risks and benefits of VPN usage,” the lawmakers concluded.