A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is one of many methods someone can use to protect their web traffic. A VPN encrypts data sent between two points, often from one physical location in a company to another. This can provide a secure connection over an unsafe network (such as your local free Wi-Fi hotspot).
These days, many VPN providers offer free and/or paid VPN services. Some of the more popular ones include Private Internet Access, HideMyAss and Express VPN, however a few days ago it was announced that Opera would add a “sort-of” VPN to its web browser. As it turns out, this is a bit of a marketing misnomer, as the Opera web browser will be using a proxy rather than a VPN. A proxy is different in that it will send the data to a third-party (in this case Opera’s own servers) before sending the data to the intended destination. Depending on the settings of the proxy, not all of a user’s web traffic may be encrypted.
As of now, the service is optional, requires no subscription and is as easy as a single click. The service is based on the SurfEasy VPN Opera acquired in March 2015, and operates by sending API requests to a server owned by SurfEasy using proxy servers owned by Opera. Some privacy minded individuals (myself included) will be wary of all their data going through Opera’s servers, although this is no different from any other VPN provider.
Opera’s “VPN” is only available in developer builds at this time, but may be a step in the right direction for privacy.