Tech

A Browser Proxy in Disguise?


As a browser that’s been around since the early days of commercial internet, Opera is still used by millions of people around the world, whether on mobile devices or desktop computers.

Safer and more private alternatives certainly exists, but one of the things that separates Opera from the competition is its built-in Virtual Private Network (VPN). In theory, a VPN will establish an encrypted connection and obscure the user’s information, thus enhancing their security and privacy. But does the Opera VPN do that? Not quite.


What Is the Problem With the Opera VPN?

On Opera’s official website, the Opera VPN is advertised as the “best free VPN” on the market, and described as a free tool that “doesn’t log your activity or collect information,” improving both security and privacy.

This seems misleading at best. Yes, the Opera VPN will spoof your IP address and hide your location, but unlike a real VPN, it won’t actually establish an encrypted connection between your computer and the internet. That is what a VPN is supposed to do, by definition, so Opera’s free tool is more of a browser proxy than anything else.


The Opera VPN uses AES-256 encryption. This is pretty much unbreakable, military-grade encryption—it is used by the U.S. government to protect classified information, which speaks volumes. But there is a problem. The Opera VPN uses the standard Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption protocol, as opposed to using a VPN tunneling protocol.

A VPN tunneling protocol is essentially a set of rules that determines how your device connects to a VPN server. By not using a secure VPN protocol like OpenVPN, Wireguard, or SoftEther, the Opera VPN exposes users to unnecessary risk. In other words, this tool may offer some privacy, but it doesn’t do much in terms of security, like a regular VPN would.

Why You Shouldn’t Use the Opera VPN

If you need a VPN to torrent something, use an email application, or watch Netflix, the Opera VPN will be of no use to you. It will, however, encrypt your browser traffic. This should be a plus, but Opera’s carefully-worded privacy policy suggests that the way in which the browser itself collects data annuls any legitimate benefit you may receive from using the Opera VPN.

For a start, in the “Anonymous Usage Statistics” section, the privacy policy states that a “random installation ID is generated” when the Opera browser is installed on a computer. This “identifier,” as Opera’s legal team put it, is used to collect all sorts of information about you, including your device ID, operating system, and “feature usage data.”

According to the privacy policy, Opera uses this information for “legitimate business purposes,” including “promotional campaigns and advertising.” This means that Opera, which has its own built-in ad blocker, will monetize your data and serve personalized advertisements.

Further down below, it is stated that Opera uses third-party technology and code, “some of which may use your data in different ways.” And what are those third parties? That depends on the device and operating system, but the list includes companies such as Google, Facebook, and PayPal.


Get a Real VPN

The Opera VPN can certainly prove useful if you’re trying to access a website unavailable in your country, but it is definitely not a real VPN. The Opera browser, meanwhile, collects way more data than privacy-focused browsers, and is thus not nearly as secure.

With all this in mind, it’s difficult to see why one would use Opera and its browser proxy, instead of using a more secure browser and an actual VPN that encrypts all traffic between your machine and the rest of the World Wide Web, as opposed to just obscuring some in-browser traffic.

In conclusion, if you want to stay safe online and keep your privacy, steer clear of Opera. Switch to a secure browser like Brave or Firefox, and invest in a real VPN service instead.

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