Privacy

Why Free Consumer Tools Aren’t Really Free

A business woman in the airport, maybe using consumer tools to communicate.

Just last week, several security experts raised concerns over the potential for content monitoring on WhatsApp. This specific fear turned out to be unfounded, but the larger concern behind it—that free consumer tools don’t guarantee your privacy—is becoming increasingly relevant. For businesses, it can be tempting to turn to free consumer tools over paid business tools and to entrust them with sensitive information, but that is not necessarily a good idea. Here’s why: 

You Are the Product Being Sold 

“If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold,” the saying goes. The companies that make and distribute free consumer tools need a way to make money so typically your data (and metadata) is the means to that. Facebook, WhatsApp’s parent company, is a prime example: Facebook harvests its users’ data like your name, your email, your birthday, and your friends list and makes money off of it through targeted advertising. 

Terms of (Their) Service 

With free consumer tools, you’re not calling the shots—service providers dictate terms of service to you and they want to benefit from your actions. Understanding those terms of service isn’t always straightforward—some companies are deliberately opaque about how exactly they’re benefiting from you—so you may not realize just how much of your information you’re giving up in return for using their tool. 

Business Tools Put You in Control 

When you’re paying for a business tool you know exactly how the company (now your vendor) is benefiting from you using the tool. You form a business relationship with the vendors and you can often negotiate the terms of service. Your vendor then has a vested interest in making sure your sensitive information remains secure and protected. 

Choosing the Right Tool 

When it comes to picking the right tool for keeping conversations secure and private, it’s important to understand which features guarantee security. A tool may tout end-to-end encryption but that doesn’t necessarily protect any messages at the time of creation or once it has been received on a device or backed up to the cloud. Features should be in place—like screenshot protection and the ability to delete messages after they’ve been sent—to protect information on devices. Vaporstream offers those features, providing businesses with complete control over how their information is stored, shared, deleted and retained with enterprise-level security and advanced content controls. To learn what makes us the right choice download our NowSecure case study here.

Contributor: Avi Elkoni