Hotspot Shield VPN May Be Using SMS Tracking On It’s Users

Watch out for free VPNs like Hotspot Shield

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Once again, another free VPN provider is under fire for potentially snooping in on its users by using a variety of tracking techniques. Hotspot Shield VPN has been criticized this time for logging its user’s data, despite mentioning in their privacy policy that they do not log any data.

Like many VPN providers, Hotspot Shield VPN claims to offer anonymous browsing data to its users. However, just like others that have been criticized before them, a new filing suggests that Hotspot Shield VPN may not be keeping its user’s data after all.

The following excerpt was provided from the filing.

“Hotspot Shield’s description for its iOS and Android mobile applications declares a “no logs” policy; however, its Privacy Policy, which covers and includes its Hotspot Shield services, describes more elaborate logging practices.”

In layman’s terms, this essentially means that the Hotspot Shield VPN apps for iOS and Android were keeping logs of the websites that users were visiting whilst using the VPN software, despite clearly stating in their policy that they purposely do not track user data.

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There are two major issues with this case. Firstly, Hotspot Shield VPN has claimed to offer an anonymous VPN service, but this has been proven to be false.

Secondly, with the developers of Hotspot Shield VPN showing that they are being untrustworthy, there’s no limit to how far they may be going with collecting user data.

Whilst they may simply be selling user data to marketing agencies, Hotspot Shield VPN could be taking it even further.

They could keep logs of their user’s browsing history, create unique identifier tokens for each user, track user’s app usage, and even use SMS tracking and IM tracking to see who they’re communicating with. As soon as you give an app like Hotspot Shield VPN access to your device, there isn’t really a limit to what they could be accessing.

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For this reason, it’s important to find a VPN service that’s trustworthy and reliable. Unfortunately, that often means paying for a monthly subscription to a premium VPN service. In most cases, free VPN services will often sell your data in some way to recover the costs to host their services.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the smaller VPN companies that are using tracking methods to keep track of user data through VPNs. In fact, Facebook-owned Onavo was recently accused of tracking user browsing history, as well as app usage.

The Onavo VPN could even track how many times you would open competing apps, such as Snapchat.

The lesson to be learned from this case is that you should never 100% trust a VPN service. If you’re using a VPN service, you should look into their privacy policy and keep an eye out for any mention in the news to learn whether the VPN service you use is tracking your data.

And as always, if you’re not paying for the service, you’re most likely paying for it in other ways, either by earning the service owners revenue through viewing advertisements, or through them sharing your data with third-party marketing agencies.

 

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