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FTC to keep a close tab on VPN providers amid Roe v. Wade ruling uproar

US Congress singles out deceptive advertising and data collection practices by the consumer VPN industry

"Privacy" written atop a circuit board

US Democrats have urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to unmask transparency-hindering practices in the virtual private network (VPN) industry on the heels of the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

Earlier this month, Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) wrote an open letter urging the FTC to “curtail abusive and deceptive data practices in companies providing VPN services to protect internet users seeking abortions.”

Citing data from consumer reports, Eshoo and Wyden stressed that abortion-seekers in the US are prone to a false sense of security with 75% of the most popular VPNs making hyperbolic claims and/or misrepresenting their products.

The lawmakers also underscored reports that accuse various VPN services of misusing users’ data, and the lack thereof “practical tools or independent research to audit VPN providers’ security claims.”

“With abortion illegal or soon to be illegal in 13 states and severely restricted in many more, these abusive and exploitative data practices are simply unacceptable,” the letter reads. 

“We urge the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take immediate action... to curtail abusive and deceptive data practices in companies providing VPN services to protect internet users seeking abortions.”

Additionally, the democrats urged the FTC to develop a ‘brochure’ detailing internet privacy, as well as the risks and benefits of using a VPN.

“We will vigorously enforce the law if we uncover illegal conduct that exploits Americans’ location, health, or other sensitive data,” stated Kristin Cohen, FTC’s acting associate director in the division of privacy and identity protection.

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