Last week we gave our 2 cents on this whole NordVPN data-mining scandal. For those who have not been following, various entities have recently accused NordVPN of belonging to a data-mining corporation in Lithuania – Tesonet. The implication was that the VPN secretly enlists your computer to scrape the net for the profit of this Lithuanian corp. Our stance on the matter was that the facts, while not necessarily peachy, do not bear out these wild accusations.
Well, this week the flame burns brighter still. Yesterday, an investigative piece was published on Medium.com, portraying these data-mining accusations as part of a wider defamation campaign run by a cabal of competitor VPN service providers (related Reddit thread). Half-way through writing this article, the Medium.com piece was removed – clearly, someone wasn’t happy about it. Rightfully so, we would imagine – the evidence is compelling, although there‘s bound to be grains of truth to the arguments on the other side as well. Let‘s see what we can make of this. Introducing the suspects:
Private Internet Access (PIA)
According to the Medium.com article, data mining allegations were first made in a PDF circulated by a ‘concerned citizen’. The citizen in question, unfortunately, left part of his Google profile pic in a screenshot, and an image search revealed his identity. As it turns out, the citizen, named Caleb Chen, was probably most concerned about PIA’s revenue. You see, Mr. Chen is an employee of London Trust Media, which is the parent company of Private Internet Access.
We’ve already discussed the thrust of these data mining allegations in our previous article, so we will not get into it here. It’s the messenger that were looking at, not the message. And the messenger should be looked at with suspicion: not only is NordVPN one of the biggest competitors of Private Internet Access, but an employee of PIA has also recently accused another VPN (ProtonVPN) of being connected to Tesonet. Whether the accusations levelled (nefariously) by PIA are true or not, it’s hard to argue that they’re trying hard to discredit NordVPN and the motivations behind these ‘Breaking news’ may not be as benevolent as they appear.
Next up is, sadly, one of our favorite VPNs – TorGuard. The Medium.com article claims there is a link between TorGuard employee Kevin Vadala and a couple of websites, Reddit users, a subreddit, a Youtube account and a Twitter account engaged either in promoting TorGuard or criticizing NordVPN (as well as PureVPN and some other VPN services).
These include the VPN review/comparison/etc website best10vpn.com, which has TorGuard as the best VPN on virtually every list; the vpnscam.com website, which has been heavily pushing the NordVPN-data-mining angle; the VPNscams subreddit, which has been doing exactly the same.
The article shows a Facebook account of someone who looks exactly like this Kevin Vadala person (named Corelio Guardez) posting stuff about TorGuard as early as 2015.
This one’s not so clear-cut because the thing linking all these accounts and TorGuard are photographs (albeit different photographs) that appear on all accounts. With that said, if we put on our best Cicero impression and ask Cui bono?, the picture rings true.
This one’s a little funny. In all honesty, we think Windscribe is mostly just finding publicity where they are able to. Recently, they have been tweeting some really out there stuff at everyone and their uncle.
Anyway, it so happens that another group to pick up the NordVPN-data-mining ‘scandal’ are Windscribe users, who have been incessantly tweeting the following message:
Well, as it turns out, it’s not like all these people decided to tweet the same thing, verbatim. Windscribe offers a free VPN plan with limited data. You can increase this limit by tweeting something about Windscribe – it’s a type of free advertising model (not too uncommon in the industry). If you go on the Windscribe site and try to ‘Tweet 4 Data’, the above pre-written tweet is what you get. Classy!
Take your pick
The Medium article shows tweets from Twitter trolls with no followers and seemingly no allegiance. It seems clear that at least some of this is a concerted effort, possibly by the culprits listed above, but it isn’t known who else may be involved. NordVPN’s market position is enviable and many would stand to benefit if their market share fell. For the time being, we’re just going to keep that popcorn warm!
A word to the wise…
So, what’s a regular user to do with all this juicy information flying around? Disregard it completely? Perhaps, but it’s not like people with a dislike for drama have nowhere to go. We always mention NordVPN and ExpressVPN in one sentence, because they are almost identical in terms of quality and versatility. The only difference right now is that no one’s shouting at ExpressVPN – they’re just calmly functioning, adding servers, being fast and good for streaming, etc. Until this scandal blows over, we urge people to go the Express way!