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Analysis of Privacy Labels in iOS VPN Apps

Analysis of Privacy Labels in iOS VPN Apps

We’ve leveraged our app intelligence solutions to identify the most popular iOS VPN apps that collect Data Used to Track You, Data Linked to You, and Data Not Linked to You. These data privacy labels are part of Apple’s recently launched App Privacy Details feature.

Over the last couple of years, Apple has invested heavily in user privacy protections, resulting in the institution of a variety of standards, initiatives, and best practices meant to protect consumers from potentially malevolent actors in the digital space.

One such initiative was App Privacy Details, which launched in December 2020. By requiring publishers to provide information about the sort of data their apps collect, this feature enables users to better understand an app’s privacy practices before they download it to their devices.

To provide further transparency, this data falls into four distinct labels: Data Used to Track You, Data Linked to You, Data Not Linked to You, and Data Not Collected. To learn more about these labels, read our recent blog post on the subject — Tracking iOS App Store Privacy Data.

In any event, we here at 42matters leveraged Apple’s App Privacy Details to conduct an analysis of another product designed to protect consumers: Virtual Private Networks (VPN). In this article, we take a look at all iOS apps with VPN in the title that collects:

  1. Data Used to Track You
  2. Data Linked to You
  3. Data Not Linked to You

Currently, as of May 20th, 2021, there are 1,265 apps with VPN in the app title:

1. Analysis of Privacy Labels in iOS VPN Apps — 42matters


To learn more about the data collected by 42matters, be sure to set up a demo!

Data Used to Track You

The Data Used to Track You label applies to any data type tracked by an app or third-party partner (such as an SDK) that is linked to data collected from other places about a particular end-user or device. This information is typically then used for advertising purposes.

Currently, as of May 20th, 2021, there are 246 VPN apps that collect Data Used to Track You:

2. VPN apps Data Used to Track You — 42matters


The most popular of these apps, based on estimated downloads over the last 30 days, include:

  1. VPN - Super Unlimited Proxy by Mobile Jump Pte Ltd (2,517,297 global downloads over the last 30 days)

3. VPN - Super Unlimited Proxy by Mobile Jump Pte Ltd

  1. NordVPN: VPN Fast & Secure by Nordvpn S.A. (1,236,882 downloads)

4. NordVPN VPN Fast Secure by Nordvpn SA

  1. Smart VPN - Fast Stable VPN by ToolsForest HK Limited (1,224,610 downloads)

5. Smart VPN Fast Stable VPN by ToolsForest HK Limited

For more information about iOS VPNs that collect Data Used to Track You, set up a meeting with one of our experts!

Data Linked to You

Data Linked to You refers to any data that could be used to identify an end-user, even if that data is not being leveraged for targeted advertising purposes. 

Currently, as of May 20th, 2021, there are 142 VPN apps that collect Data Linked to You:

6. VPN apps Data Linked to You — 42matters

The most popular of these apps, based on downloads over the last 30 days, include:

  1. ExpressVPN - #1 Trusted VPN by ExpressVPN (820,313 global downloads over the last 30 days)

7. ExpressVPN - #1 Trusted VPN by ExpressVPN

  1. Turbo VPN Private Browser by INNOVATIVE CONNECTING PTE.LIMITED (789,777 downloads)

8. Turbo VPN Private Browser by INNOVATIVE CONNECTING PTE.LIMITED

  1. VPN Vault -Super Proxy App by Appsverse Inc. (624,175 downloads)

9. VPN Vault -Super Proxy App by Appsverse Inc

For more information about iOS VPNs that collect Data Linked to You, chat with one of our experts!

Data Not Linked to You

Finally, Data Not Linked to You. This label applies to data that publishers have declared are not linked to an end user’s identity, such as geolocation, browser history, etc.

Currently, as of May 20th, 2021, there are 405 VPN apps that collect Data Not Linked to You:

10. VPN Apps Data Not Linked to You — 42matters

The most popular of these apps, based on downloads over the last 30 days, include:

  1. VPN - Super Unlimited Proxy by Mobile Jump Pte Ltd (2,517,297 global downloads over the last 30 days)

11. VPN - Super Unlimited Proxy

  1. Free VPN by Free VPN .org™ by Free VPN LLC (1,252,809 global downloads over the last 30 days)

12. Free VPN by Free VPN .org by Free VPN LLC

  1. NordVPN: VPN Fast & Secure by Nordvpn S.A. (1,236,882 downloads)

13. NordVPN VPN Fast & Secure by Nordvpn SA

For more information about iOS VPNs that collect Data Not Linked to You, schedule a demo!

Conclusion

Unsurprisingly, digital privacy is among the most hotly debated subjects in the world. While advancements in mobile technologies have made life easier in countless ways, they’ve also significantly extended the personal sphere over which one can reasonably claim a right to privacy. As a result, debates about how to better reconcile the benefits of innovation with the potentially negative side effects of our increasingly online lifestyles are often tinged with uncertainty.

What’s more, while efforts to improve online privacy have been made in the public realm (think GDPR in the European Union and CCPA in California), the most consequential advancements have typically come from incremental improvements in technology. VPNs, for instance, are not a new technology. But they are increasingly an important one. So, it’s valuable to know whether tools designed to protect online privacy are in fact themselves infringing upon it.

While we abstain from making any final determinations regarding the culpability of apps discussed in this article, we do, nevertheless, believe that transparency will ultimately lead to better technology and more secure digital experiences.

For security insights, including App Privacy Details and App Tracking Transparency, chat with one of our experts!

More App Insights from 42matters

At 42matters, we provide app data, insights, and analytics via a host of useful APIs, file dumps, the 42matters SDK Explorer, and the 42matters Explorer. This includes:

  • Developer details
  • Downloads
  • Ratings, reviews, and top chart rankings
  • Categories, genres, and IAB categories
  • Technical insights, including SDKs, permissions, and app-ads.txt
  • And more

The 42matters Explorer is an app market research tool that offers a comprehensive look at app trends and statistics. This includes data on both iOS and Android apps. Moreover, our APIs facilitate programmatic access to app intelligence data from both Google Play and the Apple App Store, as well as the Amazon Appstore, Tencent MyApp, Apple TV App Store, Fire TV, and the Roku Channel Store.

To learn more about 42matters, schedule a meeting with one of our app market experts. We’ll walk you through everything.