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After Congress revokes Internet privacy rules, downloads double of VPN-equipped Opera browser

After Congress revokes Internet privacy rules, downloads double of VPN-equipped Opera browser

Implies boost in downloads and new users stem from privacy anxieties; but third-party metrics don't show increased U.S. activity for Opera

IDG

IDG

Opera Software today boasted that the number of new U.S. users of its namesake browser more than doubled days after Congress voted to repeal restrictions on broadband providers eager to sell customers' surfing history.

Opera debuted a VPN -- virtual private network -- a year ago, and finalized the feature in September. A VPN disguises the actual IP address of the user, effectively anonymizing the browsing, and encrypts the data transmitted to and from sites, creating a secure "tunnel" to the destination.

By using a VPN, U.S. users block their Internet service providers (ISPs) from recording their online activity.

"The average number of daily new Opera users in the U.S. has more than doubled since Congress decided to repeal certain internet privacy protections last Tuesday," claimed the company in a statement. As support, it offered a graph illustrating a 109% increase in new U.S. users from March 28 to March 30.

"We integrated a free, no-log VPN directly into the browser to bring everyone, not just savvy users, a simple tool for protecting their privacy," Krystian Kolondra, the head of engineering for the desktop version of Opera, said in a statement. "The usage statistics for the past few days show that users are becoming even more conscious about their potential privacy issues when online."

VPNs have been a hot topic since March 28, when the U.S. House of Representatives followed the Senate to overturn privacy rules that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed last year. By repealing the rules -- which had not taken effect -- Congress allowed broadband providers to sell recorded customer data, including browsing history, location, even what apps had been used, without customer consent.

Opera's claim of more new users, however, was not confirmed by browser activity tracking, including the numbers posted daily by Irish analytics company StatCounter.

According to StatCounter, which measures what Computerworld calls usage share, Opera accounted for 0.72% of all browsing in the U.S. during a five-day stretch from March 29 to April 2. But the usage share for the preceding five-day spans in March -- from a Wednesday to the following Sunday -- were little different: They ranged from 0.74% to 0.76%.

Opera for Windows, macOS or Linux can be downloaded from Opera Software's website.

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