NEWS19 November 2014

Growing use of VPNs ‘a threat to digital ads’

News UK

UK — The increased use of virtual private networks (VPNs) to access the internet is a threat to digital publishers’ collection of data used to target advertising, says new research.

According to research firm GlobalWebIndex, which surveyed 170,000 individuals across 32 countries, “passive web analytics” have skewed understanding of the global internet population. The firm’s report, The Missing Billion, argues that trends in VPN usage, device sharing and mobile-only access have led to hundreds of millions of internet users being “effectively invisible in traditional internet studies”.

The report also suggested that as many as 410 million people worldwide are using a range of software and technology to help them mask their true location and remain anonymous while online.

The issue of VPN use is key in developing markets: in Indonesia, over 40% of consumers use a VPN, while this figure is over 30% in other emerging markets such as Brazil, China, Mexico, India and Turkey.

Device-sharing is also most prevalent in emerging markets, with 38% of Brazilian users only going online with a shared device, which the report claims has resulted in 417 million internet users not being counted.

“International markets are a missed opportunity for some companies,” said Jason Mander, head of trends at GlobalWebIndex.

“This issue with web analytics might leave some to believe America is dominant in terms of internet use, that foreign markets are still ‘emerging’ on the web. In fact, they have huge digital populations and a hunger for quality content.”