The history of behavior and practices exhibited by Pango and its associated companies stands in stark contrast to the core principles expected of privacy-respecting organizations. These principles typically emphasize transparency, stringent protection of user data, and a commitment to maintaining user anonymity and security. However, Pango’s record, particularly with its VPN services like Hotspot Shield and Betternet, has raised significant concerns. Instances of alleged deceptive trade practices, unethical logging, data sharing that contradicts promises of anonymity, and the inclusion of adware in software installations are all antithetical to the foundational ethos of privacy-focused entities. Moreover, the criticisms leveled at these services for concealing their corporate affiliations further undermine the trust required by users seeking privacy and security solutions. This pattern of behavior suggests a divergence from the industry’s standard privacy and security commitments, leading to skepticism and wariness among users and privacy advocates.
Hotspot Shield, in particular, has been reported for allegedly deceptive trade practices involving unethical logging and data sharing practices that contradict its “anonymous browsing” promise. This includes accusations by the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) of unfair and deceptive trade practices, as well as a discovery of adware in at least their Windows installer. Betternet, another VPN service under Pango, was founded by the son of Iran’s Vice President and later acquired by Pango. It was ranked as the fourth most hits on VirusTotal among VPN apps tested by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO. These incidents have raised concerns about how OVPN will operate as a privacy-focused VPN service under Pango’s ownership, despite OVPN’s assurances that there will be no changes to its operations and that it will continue to function independently with its unique features1.
Additionally, Pango was acquired by AURA in July 2020, which further broadened AURA’s focus to include VPN services. This acquisition has led to concerns about the transparency and trustworthiness of VPN services under corporate ownership. Hotspot Shield, prior to its acquisition by AURA, was cited for using aggressive tracking libraries and was involved in controversies regarding user privacy and security. Many of the VPN services under AURA and Pango continue to operate, but there are issues regarding their efforts to conceal their corporate ownership, which can be misleading for users.2
In summary, Pango’s acquisition of various VPN services, including OVPN, has been met with skepticism and concern regarding user privacy and security. The controversies mainly arise from past incidents involving Pango’s owned VPN services like Hotspot Shield and Betternet, which have been accused of deceptive practices and privacy infringements. Despite assurances from Pango and AURA, the trustworthiness and transparency of these VPN services continue to be questioned.