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If something is free, you are the product

Everyone at least once had this thought: “Why pay for online services and apps when there are tons of free analogues?” Moreover, there are even ads-free apps that have no hidden in-app purchases. All they ask you to do is to download them. Sound pretty tempting. But before you rush to download one of the free utilities, mind that you are actually giving out your personal data that costs much more than $4.99.

For example, for the awesomeness of Google's free range of services we pay by helping Google build an enormous database with our billions of searches and personal information.

Chris Houston, President of SurfEasy, the Opera’s VPN division, a recently launched free VPN that blasted the interned, admits: "The other way we make money is by collecting anonymous data about how people use their mobile device. We make this information available to third parties who are interested in better understanding the mobile ecosystem and how it’s evolving."

Who wants to be in a botnet?

Another VPN provider, Hola, was involved in a scandalous case of turning its users into a botnet last year. The app gained its popularity for offering free service. However, the company has been discreetly selling users' bandwidth via a separate Luminati brand, allowing anyone to buy traffic in bulk and redirect it to a target site as a denial-of-service attack. They simply made Hola users unwitting mercenaries in a botnet-for-hire.

Essentially, any app that doesn’t charge you for using it, collects your personal information for sale. Also, these services can replace ads on sites you visit with personalized ads for you since they do have the data about your browsing activity.

Think twice whether you want retailers to be the first ones to know that you dropped your smartphone and might need a new one. If you’d rather prefer to make your purchasing decision on your own, stick to paid apps and add one more layer of privacy – encrypt your traffic with VPN.

E.g. VPN Unlimited (opens in new tab) offers a free 10-day trial, and then they will charge you $4.99 a month or $24.99 a year.

Vera Mayuk, PR Manager at Keepsolid