VPNs, abortion and the FTC

Last week, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and Senator Ron Wyden wrote a letter calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to crack down on deceptive practices in the Virtual Private Network (VPN) industry.


Eshoo and Wyden's letter comes as there are too many trying to hide their digital footprint. So in recent years we've seen a surge in the VPN market from companies that promise a lot and deliver little.

A VPN allows a user to create an encrypted connection between their device and a private server, making it harder for third parties to access their online activity. For example let's take abortion in the US which is illegal in some states. Many people try to hide their messages and search history, as the police can use this information to charge someone who searches the internet for whether or not they can get an abortion.

In their letter, Eshoo and Wyden ask the FTC to crack down on VPN providers that engage in misleading advertising or make false claims about the privacy scope of their service.

Lawmakers cite a survey by Consumer Reports showing that 75 percent of the most popular VPNs “provided misleading information about their products” or made misleading claims that could give “those seeking abortion information a false impression security".

Eshoo and Wyden also draw attention to reports accusing various VPN services of mishandling user data, as well as a "lack of practical tools or independent research to verify VPN providers' security claims."

“Με τις αμβλώσεις παράνομες ή που θα γίνουν σύντομα παράνομες σε 13 πολιτείες και αυστηρά περιορισμένες σε πολλές άλλες, αυτές οι καταχρηστικές και εκμεταλλευτικές πρακτικές δεδομένων είναι απλώς απαράδεκτες”, αναφέρει η επιστολή.

"We urge the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take immediate action ... to curb abusive and deceptive data practices by companies that provide VPN services to protect internet users seeking abortions."

Eshoo and Wyden are also asking the FTC to develop a pamphlet that informs abortion information seekers about online privacy, as well as outlines the risks and benefits of using a VPN.

Earlier this month, the FTC confirmed it would take action against companies that illegally share health, location and other sensitive data, and President Joe Biden signed an executive order to protect patient privacy. Big tech companies will also take action in light of the Supreme Court ruling, with Google promising to automatically delete location data related to visits to abortion clinics.

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Written by giorgos

George still wonders what he's doing here ...

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