The Freedome approach to privacy

Privacy, Security

We were recently asked a series of questions about how Freedome protects private data by TorrentFreak.com. Since we believe transparency and encryption are keys to online freedom, we wanted to share our answers that explain how we try to make the best privacy app possible.

1. Do you keep ANY logs which would allow you to match an IP-address and a time stamp to a user of your service? If so, exactly what information do you hold and for how long?
We do not keep any such logs. If ever required by law under a jurisdiction, we would implement such a system, but only where applicable and keeping storage time to the minimum required by law of that respective jurisdiction. Note also that no registration is required to use our service, so any log information would generally map to an anonymous, random user ID (UUID) and the user’s public IP address.

2. Under what jurisdiction(s) does your company operate?
Freedome is a service provided from Finland by a Finnish company, and manufactured and provided in compliance with applicable Finnish laws.

3. What tools are used to monitor and mitigate abuse of your service?
We have proprietary tools for fully automated traffic pattern analysis, including some DPI for the purpose of limiting peer-to-peer traffic on some gateway sites. Should we detect something that is not in line with our acceptable use policy, we can rate limit traffic from a device, or block a device from accessing the VPN service. All of this is automated and happens locally on the VPN gateway.

4. Do you use any external email providers (e.g. Google Apps) or support tools ( e.g Live support, Zendesk) that hold information provided by users?
We do not use any external email providers, but our users can, for example, sign up for beta programs with their email address and send us feedback by email. The email addresses are used only to communicate things like product availability.

In the future, paying customers can also use our support services and tools such as chat. In those cases, we do hold information that customers provide us voluntarily. This information is incident based (connected to the support request) and is not connected to any other data (e.g. customer information, marketing, licensing, purchase or any Freedome data). This data is purely used for managing and solving support cases.

5. In the event you receive a DMCA takedown notice or European equivalent, how are these handled?
There is no content in the service to be taken down. Freedome is a data pipeline and does not obtain direct financial benefit from user content accessed while using the service. While some of the other liability exclusions of DMCA (/ its European equivalent) apply, the takedown process itself is not really applicable to (this) VPN service.

6. What steps are taken when a valid court order requires your company to identify an active user of your service? Has this ever happened?
The law enforcement data requests can effectively be done directly only to F-Secure Corporation in Finland. If a non-Finnish authority wants to request such data from F-Secure, the request will be done by foreign authorities directly to Finnish police or via Interpol in accordance to procedures set out in international conventions. To date, this has never happened for the Freedome Service.

7. Does your company have a warrant canary or a similar solution to alert customers to gag orders?
We do not have a warrant canary system in place. Instead, Freedome is built to store as little data as possible.

Since a warrant canary would be typically triggered by a law enforcement request on individual user, they are more reflective on the size of the customer base and how interesting the data in the service is from a law enforcement perspective. They are a good, inventive barometer but do not really measure the risk re: specific user’s data.

8. Is BitTorrent and other file-sharing traffic allowed on all servers? If not, why?
BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer file sharing is rate limited / blocked on some gateway servers due to acceptable use policies of our network providers. Some providers are not pleased with a high volume of DMCA takedown requests. We use multiple providers (see Question #12) and these blocks are not in place on all the servers.

9. Which payment systems do you use and how are these linked to individual user accounts?
There are multiple options. The most anonymous way to purchase is by buying a voucher code in a retail store. If you pay in cash, the store will not know who you are. You then enter the anonymous voucher code in the Freedome application, and we will then confirm from our database that it is a valid voucher which we have given for sale to one of our retail channels. The retail store does not pass any information to us besides the aggregate number of sold vouchers, so even if you paid by a credit card, we do not get any information about the individual payment.

For in-app (e.g., Apple App Store, Google play) purchases you in most cases do need to provide your details but we actually never receive those, we get just an anonymous receipt. The major app stores do not give any contact information about end users to any application vendors.

When a purchase is made through our own e-store, the payment and order processing is handled by our online reseller, cleverbridge AG, in Germany. Our partner collects payment information together with name, email, address, etc. and does store these, but in a separate system from Freedome. In this case we have a record who have bought Freedome licenses but pointing a person to any usage of Freedome is intentionally difficult and against our policies. We also don’t have any actual usage log and therefore could not point to one anyway.

10. What is the most secure VPN connection and encryption algorithm you would recommend to your users? Do you provide tools such as “kill switches” if a connection drops and DNS leak protection?
Our application does not provide user selectable encryption algorithms. Servers and clients are authenticated using X.509 certificates with 2048-bit RSA keys and SHA-256 signatures. iOS clients use IPSEC with AES-128 encryption. Other clients (Android, Windows, OS X) use OpenVPN with AES-128 encryption. Perfect Forward Secrecy is enabled (Diffie-Hellman key exchange).

We provide DNS leak protection by default, and we also provide IPv6 over the VPN so that IPv6 traffic will not bypass the VPN. Kill switches are not available. The iOS IPSEC client does not allow traffic to flow unless the VPN is connected, or if the VPN is explicitly turned off by the user. The Android app, in “Protection ON” state keeps capturing internet traffic even if network or VPN connection drops, thus there is no traffic or DNS leaks during connection drops. If the Freedome application process gets restarted by the Android system, there is a moment where traffic could theoretically leak outside the VPN. Device startup Android 4.x requires user’s consent before it allows a VPN app to start capturing traffic; until that traffic may theoretically leak. (Android 5 changes this, as it does not forget user’s consent at device reboot.)

11. Do you use your own DNS servers? (if not, which servers do you use?)
We do have our own DNS servers.

12. Do you have physical control over your VPN servers and network or are they outsourced and hosted by a third party (if so, which ones)? Where are your servers located?
In most locations we utilize shared hardware operated by specialized hosting vendors, but we also have our own dedicated hardware at some locations. Providers vary from country to country and over time. In some countries we also use multiple providers at the same time for improved redundancy. An example provider would be Softlayer, an IBM company whom we use in multiple locations.

2 Comments

Great post Sonja! You discussed good points. These are the reasons I use Hong Kong based, Ivacy does not keep logs and have P2P optimized servers, from which I can download torrent.
Although you have mentioned all the features that are required for torrenting anonymously, you have missed one thing i.e. Split Tunneling. With split tunneling, I can route only torrent traffic from VPN so that I can easily check my emails, social profiles while torrenting without comprising anonymity.

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