Opera adds a free VPN to its Android browser, letting you hide your weird browsing habits

Opera has added a free VPN service to its Android browser app, with Opera 51 for Android letting users dig a secure 256-bit encrypted tunnel between their Android device and a remote VPN server.

It’s a timely addition, as many people are now getting angsty about their privacy online, especially as overreach from several tech companies has shown that data and personal information perhaps isn’t as secure as we all thought.

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However, the addition is slightly confusing. Opera has some experience in the VPN space already. In 2016, Opera launched Opera VPN, a standalone VPN app for iOS and Android. A little after that, it brought that feature to its desktop product, however it discontinued Opera VPN in 2018.

Opera’s offering here is fairly unique, as it doesn’t require you to open an account to use the VPN, and also lets you choose from several different servers.

Chrome still reigns supreme on mobile, with 56.74 percent of mobile users (through Android and iOS combined) according to StatCounter while Opera is sat somewhere around 3.5 percent. However, Opera’s feature set has grown substantially over the last few updates. Last year it added a browser based crypto wallet, a customisable dark mode and in November the company’s Android browser gained the ability to disable in-page cookies, and there’s a fairly sturdy ad-blocker installed by default, too.

Free VPN’s have recently attracted a lot of criticism for their dodgy monetisation strategy, with several caught flogging their users info to third parties, or keeping a closer than expected eye on their users.

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Speaking to VentureBeat, Opera’s VP of product marketing Jan Standal claimed that users didn’t need to worry about Opera’s involvement. He claims that “The service is provided fully free of charge as a unique feature to improve the privacy and security. Opera monetizes from other unrelated mechanisms, and unlike other VPN services, Opera doesn’t depend on monetizing the browser VPN service.”

There’s no word on whether this change will hop over to the iOS version of the browser, or indeed the desktop edition of Opera.

Opera Software launched in 1995, launching the first version of the Opera browser the first year, and has supported it ever since, switching from its original Presto browser to an offering powered by Chromium in 2013. The Norwegian company went public in 2018.

Do you think a free VPN grafted into your browser is exciting or concerning? We’re happy to hear thoughts on both, reach out on Twitter: we’re at @TrustedReviews.