In a cryptic message on the Private Internet Access (PIA) blog, the VPN announced its acquisition by Kape Technologies – a company that already owns CyberGhost VPN and ZenMate VPN.
Had it not been for the much simpler tweet, many might have missed it. After all, the post – titled “Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes” after Thomas Hobbes’ description of human existence in nature – begins somewhere around the agricultural revolution circa 10,000 BCE and reaches PIA and Kape towards the very end.
This massive acquisition, worth almost $100m, should double both Kape’s premium subscribers and 2020 earnings. After adding over 1m new users, the London-listed Kape is planning to change its name to Private Internet after the purchase is complete. The shares of the company went up by more than a third to 103.51p after the news was announced.
Two new products by PIA
Apart from the strange and allegorical public announcement about the deal on their website, PIA also used the language of mere mortals to inform us about two new products in the pipeline.
The first one is a joint effort with GigaBlast to create Private.sh – a search engine that cryptographically protects your privacy. Private.sh encrypts requests and sends them via PIA’s proxy, hiding your IP, which can only be seen by the search provider.
Another project is LibreBrowser – a secure browser for Windows, macOS, and Ubuntu. Using it, you will be in private mode by default, starting each session as a new person. This means no tracking cookies and other privacy features that come with an open-source Chromium browser sans Google.
What to make of the Kape and PIA merger?
It seems that with this move, the newlyweds in Kape and PIA aim at causing a ruckus in 2020. Will they succeed in causing more than that? It remains to be seen, but one thing can be said already – the competition for the status of best VPN has just got tighter.
When it comes to privacy, we’re not sure if two Five Eyes companies are the best candidates to provide a fully no-logs VPN. While PIA’s no-logs claims were tested in a US court, the case of Kape Technologies leaves some questions unanswered.
Why the Kape Technologies merger raises concerns for PIA users?
Kape Technologies was originally known as Crossrider until the name change in 2018. The reason for that was, as CEO Ido Erlichman put it, “strong association to the past activities of the company.” Perhaps that refers to infecting users’ devices with malware and adware, considered “high-risk” by Symantec and Malwarebytes.
If that wasn’t enough, Crossrider’s Founder and first CEO Koby Menachemi, was part of Unit 8200 – something that can be called Israel’s NSA. Another key person, Teddy Sagi, who is the main investor in both Crossrider and Kape Technologies, is mentioned in the Panama Papers.
In short, from the privacy standpoint, the 1m PIA users have probably just been served a downgrade.
Karol is an experienced freelance writer, translator, and editor. His creative output covers a wide range of technology topics such as fintech, privacy, cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and more. He does not limit himself to just plain articles and writes guides, editorials, think pieces, and reviews.
I’m all for acquisitions leading to more resources, but PIA has been less than transparent in how they’ve handled this and addressed user concerns (that is, hardly at all). I’m not going to sit around and see how it plays out when there’s other great options on the market. I recently moved over to Mullvad, and so far am very happy with the service.
Long time PIA user here. I’m not willing to bail out on PIA right now, but I will if we don’t get some answers soon. We need PROOF that PIA’s privacy protections will continue under the new ownership. Nord and ExpressVPN have both done audits recently with PricewaterhouseCoopers to back up their claims. An annual third party audit will become practically a requirement to trust PIA going forward.
If Kape CEO Ido Erlichman or PIA’s Andrew Lee or Ted Kim are reading this, you should know that you are expected to prove to the customers (promises alone won’t cut it) that Kape will be honoring PIA’s commitments. If not, PIA is going to lose a huge chunk of its customers and Kape’s asset will lose a LOT of value.