Opera Launches Free VPN Service, But It’s Off-Limits To Chinese Users

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Norwegian software company Opera launched an iOS app called ‘Opera VPN’ on Monday, a free and unlimited VPN (virtual private network) service that comes with other web browsing perks, such as ad-blocking and preventing ad-tracking cookies from sharing your data with advertisers and marketers.

However Chinese netizens will be disappointed to discover that the Norwegian-based company management have not made the service available in China.

“We are in good sync with our consortium partners,” says Peko Wan, Opera’s Head of PR and Communication, Asia, when asked about the possible conflicts between Opera VPN and Opera’s Chinese backers.

In February of this year, a consortium of Chinese companies, including Qihoo 360 and Kunlun Tech, entered a $1.2 billion USD bid to acquire Opera. Chinese internet company Qihoo 360 has a controversial record when it comes to user privacy, as it was accused of stealing confidential information from users in 2013, which the company denied. Thankfully, it looks like the Norwegian company is still independent when it comes to product development, especially since foreign VPNs are not supported by the Chinese government.

“They are supportive with the primary goal being providing good user experience to our users.”

“With the new Opera VPN app, we help people to break down the barriers of the web and enjoy the internet like it should be,”said Chris Houston, President of Surfeasy, Opera’s VPN division, in the company’s press release.

Opera VPN will remain unavailable in the Chinese market for the foreseeable future. Despite the regular crackdowns on VPNs by the Chinese government, a large number of VPN services both foreign and local, such as Astrill and VPNinja, cater to customers in China. Virtual private networks are a way to connect securely over the internet, which makes them handy for anyone who wants their web traffic encrypted, like privacy advocates and corporations.

VPNs can also mask a user’s location, since their IP address is replaced once they connect to a virtual private network. That means VPNs can be used to get around all kinds of content filters, from workplace bans on social media to the ‘Great Firewall’, China’s internet censorship apparatus.

So far, users of Opera’s new VPN app can choose to connect with servers in five different countries: the U.S., Canada, Germany, Singapore, and the Netherlands. The app has already been localized into a number of different languages, including English, Japanese, Arabic, and Spanish.

Qihoo 360 declined to comment on Opera’s new VPN feature.

Image credit: Opera

Correction (5/11/2016 21:26): This post was updated to correct the fact that Opera’s acquisition is still awaiting approval from shareholders and the U.S and Chinese government.