Does Betternet Track its Users’ Behavior?

PRIVACY Updated on: 7 October 2018

Without having to research the subject too much, the answer that comes to mind as the most obvious one is “It certainly seems so”.

However, in order to fully answer this question, we’ll be looking at the differences between the free and the paid-for services that Betternet provides, their customer support, and last but not least, if they really track their users’ behavior. We’ll also be taking a look at how this is not only Betternet’s issue, but also that of the vast majority of free VPNs.

What we do know until know is that the free Betternet VPN service floods its users with advertisements. The reason is simply that it brings money, but this comes at the cost of the client’s satisfaction. Almost all of the free VPNs are guilty of this, and so is Betternet.

What’s more troublesome is that they also allow these third-party advertisers to put cookies on your devices, without asking, of course. What happens next is anyone’s guess. Your information could very well be seized or otherwise tampered with and you wouldn’t know.

Their policy and terms of service are vague and confusing in this regard, although they say that whatever those third-parties do is out of their hands. This is to say if anything were to happen, Betternet is out of the picture, with you being played just like that.

However, they do offer paid services as well. Let’s see if they fare any better though.

1. The Betternet premium VPN services

Most importantly, it seems like the premium services don’t spam you with adverts, and this can only be a good thing. You get to surf the internet and do your job without being hard-pressed and blinded by all those money-grabbing advertisements.

Everything seems to be great, right? Hold your horses, there’s more!

While we haven’t seen any while using the VPN, their policy is again extremely vague and doesn’t explicitly say that the premium version isn’t going to deliver the same cookies.

You would think that, since there are no adverts, then the cookies are also missing, right?

Sure, but they could have said that from the very beginning without beating around the bush. Interesting way to win the client’s trust, this one, I have to admit!

You do get to choose between 10 different servers from across the world, so the diversity is ample enough, and you can use up to 5 devices at the same time. But are they truly bulletproof, which is to say, do they truly deliver on their promises?

Once again, Betternet chooses to be “discreet” about its encryption methods and standards. While they do say that all the servers are encoded with OpenVPN, they aren’t clear at all in what areas they use their tunneling protocols. In any case, just think about it. What reason would they have to uphold such information or miss the opportunity to brag about their encryption standards, if they are top notch?

That’s right, they would have no reason to do that!

From my personal experience, VPNs that go that way are usually not confident in their own methods and/or have weak encryption standards that aren’t up to par with the modern hacker’s tools.

Average speed and questionable credibility

That’s right, depending on the server you’re using, your internet speed could be plummeting below the efficiency limits. The UK and Dutch servers were acceptable, which means that there could be worse, way worse. The one in the United States, let’s just say that I would only use it if I didn’t have any other choice.

As for the browser extensions they offer, it seems like it allows DNS leaks to go through unimpeded, so I would suggest staying away from it. There are way better options on the web for which you don’t have to pay. Food for thought.

It’s good for accessing the locked content, but otherwise, if you want to actually keep your data protected and nocturnal snooping a secret, you’d better look somewhere else. Using these proxies invites danger and potential leaks.

A machine-gun shooting blanks. Or is it tracking bullets?

Whether Betternet tracks its users’ behavior or not is very believable, and everything points to this being a good probability. Essentially, there’s the incomplete, confusing, and vague privacy policy. The terms of service aren’t any better at all. They’re misleading and intentionally withhold information from the user.

While the premium version is free of advertisements, you have no way of knowing if there aren’t any background processes going on, cookies being thrown into your backyard. Moreover, the speed is nothing to brag about, just enough to stream in HD, in its good moments.

There are the occasional buffering and freezes though, so there’s that.

The protection it promises is second-rate at best, mainly because of the secrecy policy they’re enforcing. You have to know what you’re paying for. Well, obviously, they’re not of the same opinion.

Because we all like to be kept in the dark, right?

Sure, it’s good for those who just want to access sites that aren’t allowed in some regions. But more than that, like securing and putting a dome around your online dealings and information, it’s highly questionable. I would suggest looking somewhere else for a real VPN service.

The only logical conclusion would be that Betternet’s tracking its users’ behavior, with all the many inconsistencies present at every step of the way. At the very least, it should make you think it twice before enlisted their aid.

2. Is it the same with other free VPNs?

Certainly, yes. From what we’ve seen, most free VPNs are just like Betternet, vague with their encryption protocols, uncertain and confusing in their privacy policies, and with mediocre services at best.

I know that you’re concerned about your privacy when using the internet, for good reasons as well, but while the word “free” might be extremely appealing, it’s a double-edged sword. The same issues that we had with Betternet are still there when talking about other free VPNs:

  • For starters, there’s the problem with all the ads and advertisements that keep popping up from out of nowhere. Remember Betternet’s problems? Yeah, it’s basically more of that. What a pleasant surprise!
  • Then, there’s the probability that you’ll wake up with malware on your head. No one wants a malware, and, I assume, neither do you. Well, it turns out that the protection comes packing sidearms, and bringing some friends along.
  • Free VPNs are also known to use your private information and credentials for personal use, illegal activities, offering it to third parties. Offering it for what you ask? Money, of course. They have to make a living somehow, and since the services are free, there must be other ways, right?

In this sense, premium VPNs are the way to go, for the simple reason that you get assured protection with none of the risks involved. It seems too good to be true, but that’s how it’s supposed to be.

There are plenty of pros to a paid VPN that completely compensates for the money you’re putting in. And talking about the prices, NordVPN, for example, one of the most robust and flexible VPNs out there, charges between 3-12$ per month. And its services are beyond reproach.

Any paid VPN is better than the combined value of 10 free ones. That should speak for itself.

In the end, whether it’s Betternet or other free VPNs out there, the chances that they are tracking the online activities of their users is very high.

And they aren’t making any effort whatsoever to rectify this either.