After my previous blog post got some unexpected publicity, there were some curious instances of Vero apologists defending the platform. Two main cases they presented were:

  1. No matter how shadily Vero might treat your privacy, it’s fine since it’s covered in their Privacy Policy
  2. Every other social media platform does the same thing anyway

I’ll give it to them, the second point is almost 100% accurate, but it simply doesn’t make it any more OK to invade users’ privacy. However, it’s the first point that really grinds my gears, especially when it comes to Vero.

See, Vero uses phrases such as “no data mining” and “our users are our customers, not the product we sell to advertisers.” When an average person sees that, they think “hey, that sounds a lot better than Facebook, right?” The connotations with privacy are obvious.

It’s basically the same phenomenon that happens when people see two different headlines, one talking about blockchain and the other about Bitcoin, and people think both are about the same thing.

 

This is not about semantics. This is not some one-time case of misleading marketing. This is the industry standard, and people need to learn how to recognize it.

 

Here’s an example of just some of the things from Vero’s Privacy Policy (Feb 28, 2018 version), emphasis added by me:

  • We may also retain any messages you send through the Service, and may collect information you provide in User Content you post to the Service.
  • We may receive information about you from third parties. For example, if you access our websites or Service through a third-party connection or log-in, for example, through Facebook Connect, by “following,” “liking,” adding the Vero application, linking your account to the Vero Service, etc., that third party may pass certain information about your use of its service to Vero.
  • We may collect log file information from your browser or mobile device each time you access the Service.
  • These tools collect information sent by your browser or mobile device, including the pages you visit, your use of third party applications, and other information that assists us in analyzing and improving the Service.
  • When you access our Service by or through a mobile device, we may receive or collect and store a unique identification number associated with your device (“Device ID”), mobile carrier, device type and manufacturer, phone number, and location data (e.g., city and state) of your mobile device.
Visualization of data collection mentioned in Vero’s Privacy Policy, created by Polisis
Visualization of 3rd party sharing mentioned in Vero’s Privacy Policy, created by Polisis

Oh, and did I mention yet that Vero is based in USA, in a Five Eyes country? The land of the free and the home of the NSA. Again, I quote from their Privacy Policy:

“Your information collected through the Service may be stored and processed in the United States, United Kingdom, or any other country in which Vero or its subsidiaries, affiliates or service providers maintain facilities. If you are located in the European Union or other regions with laws governing data collection and use that may differ from U.S. law, please note that we may transfer information, including personal information, to a country and jurisdiction that does not have the same data protection laws as your jurisdiction…”

I think the verdict is clear. Under that fancy UI and promises about respecting privacy, lies just another social media app with a Big Brother complex. Just because you don’t see ads in your Vero feed doesn’t mean that your data isn’t being collected, analyzed and shared. And remember, at least at the time of writing this, they’re still offering the app for free – and there are no free lunches even on the Internet.

 


 

Vero isn’t exactly championing freedom of speech or freedom of expression either, so expect seeing users reporting content being censored (this is known to happen with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.). Vero also states in their Terms of Use Agreement that they can delete or alter any data, account history and account content even without notice (and obviously also with no liability of any kind).

I’d like to end this blog post on a positive note. As it is evidently the case with Vero as well, (especially big) social media platforms tend to be absolutely horrible in terms of respecting privacy. So far I’ve found only one promising platform in this regard. Minds is an “open-source, community-owned social network providing tools for revenue, reach, privacy and Internet freedom.” Go give them a shot if you like – at least it’s not a shot in your own foot like it is when signing up to Vero.

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