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Opera for Android Browser Adds Built-In VPN Feature

VPNs are getting exclusive treatment these days.

Opera Mini web browser app in play store. close-up on the laptop screen
Opera for Android is planning to offer VPN service for free. Will it solve our privacy and data security problems?

Right behind the new trend of battle royal treatment of games… is the big tech bosses’ efforts towards helping the sensitive public, us, keep its privacy and data security in-tact.

And now Opera, having tried the VPN business once before, is gearing up for a rerun.

Opera has announced that they will bring back their VPN services. Not only that, but they will be bringing them back in a free service model, embedded in their Android browser. For now, the company is planning to offer a beta version of its browser app for Android.

However, some people have found it working in the beta version already available for download. Opera is looking to offer it in their alpha release after some much-needed testing.

Features

The VPN service will only be available through the browser. Once downloaded, you can turn it on through browser settings. The browser will be able to differentiate the traffic coming in based on tabs as well as other conditions… so you can choose to keep the service running…

  • For all the traffic
  • For all the traffic except the search engines (for times where you want the search results to be relevant of your previous data or location, etc.)
  • Or for traffic only in private tabs.

The beta version will also enable the user to choose the location they want to appear from. For now, the available options are Europe, the U.S. and Asia, which can be changed without exiting the app. You can also choose the location to be “optimal” set by the service based on the best possible speed/result depending on different factors.

Opera has plans to add further locations as well.

Opera is launching the service for the Android platform, for free. Currently, there seem to be no plans for an Apple version of the browser with the VPN services. However, the way things have been moving towards the direction of data integrity and privacy, it won’t be surprising if the Apple version is launched right after the beta testing for the Android version is over.

Opera: The Savior of Privacy?

Think about it—a free service coming from a known established business which has already been making a good product… Now, who would want to miss that? 

Probably a few sane minds, it seems.

Now hear us out… There are no two ways around the fact that VPNs are the need of time. Privacy is the new jewel and VPNs are safes that secure it.

VPN - Virtual perivate network. Internet conncetion privacy concept.
Having a separate VPN app meant that there were users using their VPN but not their browser.

So, this is good news right…?

Maybe, but you know what? Let’s put that devil’s advocate hat on our head for a moment here.

There are other factors which may change how this philanthropist effort should be looked at.

Opera is one of many companies offering a good browser app. It is not the most famous browser app, that is for sure, and it is definitely not the best by many standards. The market is practically owned by Google Chrome, which has more than 60 percent market share, then there is Safari, then Firefox and then the rest.

It is not even one of the newcomers which are designed to be aligned with the users of the current era, like Brave.

So maybe, just maybe, what Opera is trying to do here is getting a hike in the volume of downloads for its browser—and quite justifiably so, since they have super low penetration in the smartphone market.

Opera had a separate VPN app once. But, as all things beautiful before it, they put that muscle-bound Viking to sleep, quite sadly with an even sadder picture in the final message; without any solid reason.

Having a separate VPN app meant that there were users using their VPN but not their browser.

Perhaps to best capture the audience, this was the way to move forward.

We can’t blame them, it’s a business move, businesses have to survive and it’s their right to offer services which help them get proper profits.

But is it in any interest of us? The users?

Let’s be very clear, even if the service offered by Opera is superbly effective, it won’t take care of all of our problems. We still will be needing a VPN service besides Opera’s browser, because guess what, the browser-based VPN will only be taking care of the traffic coming through the Opera browser. What about all the rest of the traffic?

Yes…

For all of that, we will still be out in the cold…. A pigeon in front of the cat with its eyes closed. Thinking … since it can’t see the cat, it is not there.

That’s just one thing… considering if the product is good at what it does.

The other thing is it being free…

Having any kind of standalone software that runs on your device for free is closer to the realms of reality than a completely free VPN service.

VPNs are a huge investment; they need a good number of servers, both physical and virtual, at different physical locations.

There is investment involved. Then there is that little case of setting it up and the huge burden of running it, maintaining it, servicing it.

The VPN service provider has to make a profit somehow, as does any other business that requires effort to run.

If you get the product for free, then what the business sells IS you!

Case in point, Facebook!

Facebook not only sells your data for its profit, it uses any data it can find anywhere near its apps to make money. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Facebook user or a programmer using their SDK… if you have a product with their digital imprint on your device, your data is being harvested and sold.

And that is what makes Facebook tick.

Facebook user touch on love button in Facebook application on iPhone 7
Facebook not only sells your data for its profit, it uses any data it can find anywhere near its apps to make money.

As if just to strengthen the reason of our eyes looking at the freemium business in a crooked way, Facebook launched their own “Data Security App” a little while back.

Somehow the common man failed to see the irony of the situation which only needed common sense, blessed on few, to see. A company living off monitoring people’s data is promoting a service to keep people’s data private and secure from other parties? How amazing?

They promised their users to make their traffic secured from any third party who tries to monitor their traffic… except them, of course.

Later, after they were found to be tracking and monitoring users’ data, their app was blocked from Apple’s App Store and removed. This, however, didn’t stop their app from continuing to suck data from the people who had previously downloaded the app and still had it on their mobile device.

So if one of the “Big 4” tech companies can do it, why can’t the other, smaller companies?

The last nail in the coffin would be the WebRTC traffic… Browsers are bound to use it as a way of communication as long as there isn’t something better available. There are a few browsers that have the option to stop WebRTC traffic, like Firefox. The rest, however, including Opera for Android, are still working to come up with better solutions.

Conclusion

For now, we take the news with a grain of salt and will touch it with a 9.9-foot pole. Yes, this move looks nice and a way forward towards the right direction, a direction where browsing software will likely be moving in the future. However, the free app model and Facebook’s antics with data security has gotten our ears pointed up and eyes slightly squinted…

Ultimately, a premium VPN is best for default browsing and connectivity. However, the Opera VPN may be worth trying for now, just to test the waters.

This is because: One, the Opera browser doesn’t cover all forms of internet communication; and two, it’s a free model and we wouldn’t want to become a product unbeknown to us… maybe sometime later when we know what product we are becoming (j/k) …but not right now.

Thus, it is time for you to choose your own poison…

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