ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN was launched in 2009 by serial entrepreneurs Peter Burchhardt and Dan Pomerantz. From its inception, ExpressVPN’s commitment to privacy and security would be called in to question as several unsettling events unfolded. The service would eventually be acquired by Kape Industries (see more below) for just shy of 1 billion dollars. You have to ask yourself – what kind of company has that kind of cash sitting around, and how do they earn it? Certainly no humble privacy thinktank or nonprofit.

Contents

The notoriety of ExpressVPN began to gain prominence in 2016, when Turkish authorities confiscated one of its servers. The device was believed to be implicated in the erasure of evidence linked to the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey.

The spotlight shone on ExpressVPN again in 2021, but this time due to a change in its corporate structure. The VPN provider was acquired by Kape Technologies, an Israeli company with a concerning history of generating malware and adware. The implications of this acquisition remain debatable, especially considering the parent company’s questionable past activities.

The plot thickened in the same year when Daniel Gericke, ExpressVPN’s Chief Information Officer, admitted to participating in Project Raven. In this scheme, he helped the UAE spy on American dissidents and journalists, a revelation that raised alarm bells among privacy advocates. It was discovered by Reuters that some of those individuals were later tortured by the UAE.

ExpressVPN Privacy Policy

When evaluating ExpressVPN’s privacy policy, there is one interesting bit that stands out:

Legal. Your Personal Data is controlled by and stored under ExpressVPN, and not by its ultimate holding company, Kape Technologies PLC (UK) or other related entities. Express Technologies Ltd. operates under BVI jurisdiction, in accordance with BVI laws (pursuant to Section 16 of the Terms). Consequently, any demand via legal means for Personal Data (or other types of data) is subject to BVI jurisdiction and laws. We fight vigorously to defend our rights (and those of our users) if an attempt is made to bypass the privacy protections provided for by the BVI. A parent, subsidiary, or related entity cannot be compelled to, nor would it voluntarily, provide Personal Data stored by Express Technologies Ltd.

Let’s translate this from legalese and break it down. What that essentially means is that if a law enforcement agency from outside the British Virgin Islands, such as an American agency, wants access to your account information, the request would be assessed under BVI legal standards. This does not mean gaining access to your account information is not impossible, just more difficult.

If a U.S. law enforcement agency contacted ExpressVPN for your account information, several scenarios could unfold:

  1. Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT): The agency might go through an MLAT or other formal channels to request assistance from BVI authorities. If BVI authorities deem the request valid under BVI law, they might compel ExpressVPN to comply.
  2. Direct Request Refusal: If the U.S. agency approached ExpressVPN directly, the company might refuse the request based on BVI jurisdiction unless ordered by BVI courts to comply.
  3. Challenge and Defense: ExpressVPN indicates it would fight vigorously to defend its rights and the rights of its users against attempts to bypass BVI privacy protections. While highly unlikely, this could involve legal battles where the legitimacy of the request would be tested against BVI privacy laws.

The more heinous your offense was, the more likely the British Virgin Islands are to cooperate with the United States.

App Telemetry

When evaluating a company’s commitment to privacy, one of the best representations is what data or telemetry is collected while you are using their app. It’s kind of like if you were to find out a guest went through your medicine cabinet while using your bathroom. I do applaud ExpressVPN for immediately asking whether you would like to participate in sending usage analytics – most apps leave that option buried in the settings.

However, despite turning this setting off, the iOS App Privacy Report tells an interesting story. The most contacted domains are all related to analytics and marketing:

  • app-measurement.com
  • firebaselogging-pa.googleapis.com
  • googleadservices.com
  • adservice.google.com
  • app.usercentrics.eu
  • fonts.googleapis.com
  • googleads.g.doubleclick.net
  • app.launchdarkly.com
  • sdk.iad-05.braze.com

Collectively, these instances draw attention to ExpressVPN’s tangled engagement with privacy, power, and politics. They suggest a need for more in-depth investigations and disclosures to make informed decisions about the use of such services. Evaluating any VPN service is no longer just about comparing features and prices; it also entails a keen understanding of the company’s ethics, allegiances, and accountability. It’s clear that trust and transparency are vital in the digital age, but the story of ExpressVPN reminds us that these values are often harder to find than we’d like.

Can you safely torrent with ExpressVPN?

In section 7 Acceptable Use Policy of the ExpressVPN Terms of Service it clearly states that you are not to upload, download, or distribute material that is copyrighted, and that they will terminate your account after repeated violations. That is not to say that ExpressVPN actively monitors for BitTorrent usage – it simply means if your account is flagged multiple times for DMCA violations they will terminate your account in order to remain legally compliant. That being said, quite often once an IP address is verified to be from a VPN the group representing the intellectual property holders will not bother to submit the DMCA notice, but your mileage may vary.

What services are available while using ExpressVPN?

ServiceBlocked / Restricted
Amazon PrimeAccessible; non-US IPs blocked
NetflixAccessible
SpotifyAccessible
PandoraAccessible
YouTube MusicAccessible
HuluAccessible
Disney+Accessible
Google SearchCaptcha for non-US IPs
ChatGPTAccessible
YouTubeAccessible

It’s also worth discussing ExpressVPN’s questionable advice regarding browser choice. Their marketing team has recommended the Chrome browser to its users, a decision that stands in stark contrast to their ostensible privacy-focused ethos. Chrome, as is well known, is a product of Google, a company with a prominent role in the realm of data collection and targeted advertising. Recommending a browser that has been at the center of various privacy controversies suggests a surprising disconnect from the fundamental principles of data protection. This discrepancy between ExpressVPN’s supposed commitment to privacy and its browser recommendation raises questions about the company’s understanding and prioritization of privacy issues. It serves as a sobering reminder that companies may not always act in the best interest of users when it comes to safeguarding digital rights and freedom.

Kape Industries

In our original article, we highlighted the evolution of Kape Technologies, formerly known as Crossrider. Initially, Crossrider was involved in the production of a browser development platform that was unfortunately exploited by third parties to distribute malware onto devices. However, in 2016, Crossrider decided to shut down its development platform. Subsequently, the company underwent a significant transformation, acquiring various VPNs starting in 2017 and ultimately rebranding as Kape Technologies in 2018.

Under the umbrella of Kape Technologies, several notable VPN services are now owned, including CyberGhost, Private Internet Access, ZenMate VPN, and recently, ExpressVPN. It is worth noting that Kape Technologies also runs VPN “review” websites, which curiously rank its own VPN services in top positions. This arrangement raises questions about the impartiality and objectivity of these rankings.

Despite the acquisition, ExpressVPN seems to be operating independently for the time being. However, the long-term impact of the ownership change remains uncertain. It will be interesting to see how ExpressVPN develops under the ownership of Kape Technologies. In our latest round of tests, ExpressVPN has performed well, surpassing its performance from the previous year. We will closely monitor the situation and update our ExpressVPN review accordingly to provide accurate observations and insights to our readers.

ExpressVPN’s ‘No Logs’ Policy Put to the Test

In December 2017, Turkish authorities seized an ExpressVPN server in an attempt to obtain customer data. However, the authorities were unable to find any logs on the server, as ExpressVPN does not keep any logs of its users’ activity.

This incident demonstrates the strength of ExpressVPN’s ‘No Logs’ policy. Even when authorities seized a server, they were unable to obtain any user data. This is because ExpressVPN does not store any logs of its users’ activity, including their IP addresses, browsing history, or connection times.

ExpressVPN is one of the few VPN providers that can make this claim. Many other VPN providers claim to have a ‘No Logs’ policy, but they have been caught logging user data in the past. This makes ExpressVPN a more trustworthy option for users who are concerned about their privacy.

See Also


Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.