VikingVPN Has Received a Request for Information from the European Union - The Questions and Our Full Responses

VikingVPN has received a voluntary request for information from the European Commission. We have partially participated in the request and refused to answer any questions pertaining to customer data. The request contained no requests for individual user data, but had requests for some aggregate data that we also felt was too intrusive or requested information we simply do not have because we do not log our user activity.

*WARNING THIS IS A LONG AND DETAILED POST, AND IT IS NOT MOBILE FRIENDLY AS IT CONTAINS LARGE TABLES*

*SKIP TO THE END OF THIS DOCUMENT TO SEE THE STATEMENT THAT WE ATTACHED TO OUR RESPONSE*

On July 8th 2015 we received the following email from the European Commission:

EUROPEAN COMMISSION


DG Competition


Directorate C - TF


Brussels, 08/07/2015 * 2015/066540


Subject: Case No COMP/HT.4607– E-commerce Sector Inquiry – Digital content - Request for information

Please quote this reference in all correspondence


Dear Madam/Sir,


On 6 May 2015, the Commission adopted a decision (C(2015) 3026 final) on the basis of Article 17 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2003, to launch a sector inquiry into e-commerce in the European Union.


This letter is a formal request for information made in accordance with Article 18(1) and (2) of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2003, which empowers the Commission to require undertakings and associations of undertakings to provide all necessary information whether or not they are suspected of any infringement of the competition rules.


In line with Article 23 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2003, the Commission may impose fines on undertakings that supply incorrect or misleading information.

In line with Article 28 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2003, the information collected during the sector inquiry shall be used only for the purposes of that sector inquiry.

You will be able to access the formal request for information letter addressed to your organization in the Equestionnaire application.

Please note that you have received the Equestionnaire in English. Under the tab "Documents from the Commission", you will find, for your information, a Dutch version of the questionnaire as well as of the tables included in some of the questions of the questionnaire.


Your reply to this request for information must reach the Commission no later than 14/08/2015.


You will find the details granting access to your questionnaire below:


Website URL: https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/competition/equest/REDACTED

Login: REDACTED

Password: REDACTED

The Equestionnaire application provides respondents with a modern, secure and efficient web-based workspace to submit their reply the Commission. To ensure the security of the information provided, the website uses the HTTPS protocol with 256-Bit SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption technology.

For security reasons, you will be asked to change the password at your first login attempt. The above initial password is unique to each addressee and should not be given to anyone who does not have authority to submit a formal response to the request for information on behalf of the addressed organization.

Please note that submitting a response to the electronic questionnaire using the included username and password constitutes a formal response to the request for information on behalf of the addressee named in the letter.


Should you have a question or encounter technical difficulties with the online questionnaire, please send an e-mail to COMP-E-COMMERCE@ec.europa.eu.


Thank you in advance for your assistance and effort in replying to this questionnaire.


Yours faithfully,

[signed] Thomas Kramler

Deputy Head of Unit

-----

We reviewed the links on a secure device, and verified that the request was legitimate, although we also found that the website was woefully behind on cryptography despite the assurance in the email of otherwise. We also found out that the European Union apparently does not use EV certificates. Wow.

Because of the subject directly impacting our industry, and the greater privacy community, we opted to have an open discussion with the European Commission about our operations and our opinions on the topic at hand. We answered the questions that would not reveal information about our customers, and declined to answer the rest, and also attached an optional statement.

The specific questions and our responses to them:

Format: Questions from the EC are in plain text, and our replies are in bold.

1

GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR COMPANY

These questions aim at gaining an understanding of the the type of services offered and the way in which it is offered.

1.1

Activities of the company

Please describe briefly the main activities of your company. Please list the geographic areas in which it is active and the types of service that it provides.


Our company is a privacy and security focused Virtual Private Network provider. We assist our customers with securing their internet services and thwarting tracking by commercial, state, or malicious actors. It is a measured and reasonable response to the increasingly problematic environment of surveillance across the web. Our service operates worldwide with VPN servers located in Phoenix US, Seattle US, Chicago US, New York City US, Amsterdam NL, and Bucharest RO, with planned expansions into South America and the Asia-Pacific region in progress.

The primary focus of our services is to assist people with bypassing surveillance activities. This ranges from Atheists speaking out in Bangladesh (who are being murdered in the streets for their beliefs), to Chinese dissidents speaking out against their government, to journalists that need to protect sources, to doctors and lawyers concerned with confidentiality, and people trying to bypass censorship in their home nations, the most prominent of these being China.

1.2

Service provided

Please explain what type of service you provide to retail users. If you provide more than one, please tick all that apply.

Reply:

VPN

1.2.1

If you have chosen 'other', please explain the service provided.

Reply:

(Not provided)

1.3

Service architecture

Please briefly explain how traffic originating from the customer's premises is routed or treated for you to be able to provide the service.

Reply:

Traffic is encrypted using OpenVPN plus some additional proprietary measures in some cases. Traffic then goes to the server cluster of the customers choice, where it is routed within the cluster multiple times and then sent out through one of the cluster's exit IP addresses. This is done to obfuscate timing information and make it harder to differentiate one clients data from another using mass-surveillance techniques to analyze timing information to identify users of the service.

1.4

Servers distribution

If applicable, please indicate how many servers you have across the EU.

Reply:

11 - 20

1.4.1

Please indicate the total capacity of your servers in the EU.

Reply:

This question is unclear. If we are talking about bandwidth, it is over 10Gb/sec. If we are talking about the number of users that the service can handle for all servers within the EU, that is subjective and confidential information.

2

TYPE OF USAGE

These questions aim at understanding the key reasons why customers choose to use your services.

2.1

Number of users

How many users located in the EU use at least one of your services? In this question, "located in the EU" means that the location of origin of the connection to your web site is in the EU, regardless of the location of the user's account.

For example, a user with an account based in the US who connects to your service in France would be considered as "located in the EU" for the purpose of this questionnaire.

Reply:
20102011201220132014
Number of usersConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential


2.2

Regularity of use

How frequently do your customers use the most popular service you provide (i.e. the service with the largest number of users)? Please provide average shares of total users for each frequency range, for 2014 or the latest available year of data.

Reply:
Share of total users
At least once a day0
Less than once a day but at least three times per week0
Less than three times per week but at least once a week0
Less than once a week but at least three times per month0
Less than three times per month0


2.2.1

If the data in the table are for any year other than 2014, please specify the year.

Reply:

We do not track this information and have no way of estimating it.

2.3

Primary use of the service

Based on any hard data you may have or on your marketing information, please rank the importance of each of the following factors in explaining why customers make use of your service (by pressing and holding the mouse over each choice and drag it up or down to change its rank).

Reply:
Privacy concerns
Other
Access restrictions imposed by internet/broadband provider
Access restriction imposed by other
Need to bypass geo-blocking restrictions

2.3.1
If you have indicated 'other,' please explain.
 
Reply:
Increasing the security of data over insecure connections.

2.4
Media traffic
Please indicate the average proportion of overall traffic generated by individual customers which consists of streaming of video, audio or audiovisual formats.

Reply:
41% - 60% (I guessed this answer based on my own usage and consider it typical. We have no way of knowing)

3
GEOGRAPHIC SCOPE OF USAGE
These questions aim at understanding the extent to which your services are used to access products/services located in a different country than the one where the user is located.
3.1
Usage restrictions
Please indicate whether you restrict access to your service based on any of the following elements.
 Edit
 
Reply:
Other
 
3.1.1
If you have chosen any of the above, please explain the reasons for restricting access. If you have chosen 'other,' please explain.
 
Reply:
We are a net neutral secure IP forwarding service. The only geo-restrictions that exist for our services are restrictions that are placed on the server's physical location. To be clear, a customer from anywhere in the world connecting to a server cluster in Romania would be subject to geo-restrictions for the nation of Romania. This is largely handled by the datacenters and the infrastructure within that nation.

3.2
Geographic patterns of usage - Number of users
Please fill in the table below by indicating the total number of users (subscribers or otherwise) who connect to your service from an EU Member State. The originating country should be understood as meaning the country in which the user is present when accessing the service, not the country of the user's account or normal residence.

For example, if a user who resides and has an account in the US accesses the service in France, the originating country would be France.  

Please do not use the "%" sign when inputting the data, only provide numerical values.
Reply:
Number of users
AustriaWe decline to answer this question.
BelgiumWe decline to answer this question.
BulgariaWe decline to answer this question.
CroatiaWe decline to answer this question.
CyprusWe decline to answer this question.
Czech RepublicWe decline to answer this question.
DenmarkWe decline to answer this question.
EstoniaWe decline to answer this question.
FinlandWe decline to answer this question.
FranceWe decline to answer this question.
GermanyWe decline to answer this question.
GreeceWe decline to answer this question.
HungaryWe decline to answer this question.
IrelandWe decline to answer this question.
ItalyWe decline to answer this question.
LatviaWe decline to answer this question.
LithuaniaWe decline to answer this question.
LuxembourgWe decline to answer this question.
MaltaWe decline to answer this question.
NetherlandsWe decline to answer this question.
PolandWe decline to answer this question.
PortugalWe decline to answer this question.
RomaniaWe decline to answer this question.
SlovakiaWe decline to answer this question.
SloveniaWe decline to answer this question.
SpainWe decline to answer this question.
SwedenWe decline to answer this question.
United KingdomWe decline to answer this question.

3.3
Geographic patterns of usage - Total traffic
Please fill in the table below by indicating the percentage of total users from an EU Member State who use your service by connecting from that Member State to a server, or an IP address, in another country.

Each row should provide the originating country and each column the country in which the IP / server sought by the user is located. The originating country should be understood as meaning the country in which the user is present when accessing the service, not the country of the user's account or normal residence.

For example, if a user who resides and has an account in the US accesses the service in France, the originating country would be France.

The total of each row should therefore be 100 per cent, which should represent the totality of your customers connecting from that country.

For example, the cell at the intersection of the first row and the fourth column should contain the percentage of users from Austria accessing an IP/server located in Italy.

Please do not use the "%" sign when inputting the data, only provide numerical values.

Please use the attached Excel table "Digital Content Q - IP Routing - Q 3.3" to answer the questions.

TABLE 1
Target CountriesBelgiumBulgariaCzech RepublicDenmarkGermanyEstoniaIrelandGreeceSpainFranceCroatiaItalyCyprusLatviaLithuaniaLuxembourgHungaryMaltaNetherlandsAustriaPolandPortugalRomaniaSloveniaSlovakiaFinlandSwedenUnited KingdomTOTAL EUUSOther (non-EU, non-US)
Originating Countries
BelgiumConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
BulgariaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
Czech RepublicConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
DenmarkConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
GermanyConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
EstoniaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
IrelandConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
GreeceConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
SpainConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
FranceConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
CroatiaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
ItalyConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
CyprusConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
LatviaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
LithuaniaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
LuxembourgConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
HungaryConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
MaltaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
NetherlandsConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
AustriaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
PolandConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
PortugalConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
RomaniaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
SloveniaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
SlovakiaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
FinlandConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
SwedenConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
United KingdomConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
TOTAL EUConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential

3.4
Geographic patterns of usage - Media traffic
Similarly to the previous question, please fill in the table below by indicating the percentage of total traffic from an EU Member State used to access audiovisual content by connecting from that Member State to a server, or an IP address, in another country.

Each row should provide the originating country and each column the country in which the IP / server sought by the user is located. The originating country should be understood as meaning the country in which the user is present when accessing the service, not the country of the user's account or normal residence.

For example, if a user who resides and has an account in the US accesses the service in France, the originating country would be France.

The total of each row should therefore be 100 per cent, which should represent the totality of the traffic originating from that country to access audio or video or audiovisual content.

For example, the cell at the intersection of the first row and the fourth column should contain the percentage of total traffic from Austria and connecting to an IP/server located in Italy to access audio or video or audiovisual content.

Please do not use the "%" sign when inputting the data, only provide numerical values.

Please use the attached Excel table "Digital Content Q - IP Routing - Q 3.4" to answer the questions.

TABLE 2
Target CountriesBelgiumBulgariaCzech RepublicDenmarkGermanyEstoniaIrelandGreeceSpainFranceCroatiaItalyCyprusLatviaLithuaniaLuxembourgHungaryMaltaNetherlandsAustriaPolandPortugalRomaniaSloveniaSlovakiaFinlandSwedenUnited KingdomTOTAL EUUSOther (non-EU, non-US)
Originating Countries
BelgiumConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
BulgariaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
Czech RepublicConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
DenmarkConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
GermanyConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
EstoniaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
IrelandConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
GreeceConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
SpainConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
FranceConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
CroatiaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
ItalyConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
CyprusConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
LatviaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
LithuaniaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
LuxembourgConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
HungaryConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
MaltaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
NetherlandsConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
AustriaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
PolandConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
PortugalConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
RomaniaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
SloveniaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
SlovakiaConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
FinlandConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
SwedenConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
United KingdomConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential
TOTAL EUConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidentialConfidential

-----
THIS IS THE END OF THE QUESTIONNAIRE AND OUR RESPONSES
-----

We also had the option to attach a statement to the answers. We chose to exercise this option to speak on how we felt about the discussion and the related topics. Our full comments are below.

A Statement from VikingVPN on the purpose of VPNs vs Geo-Restricted Content


VikingVPN was founded in order to fight mass-surveillance. When I began the research that led to the formation of the company, I was volunteering my time in order to create solutions to fight mass-surveillance from commercial actors. This was due to the increasingly problematic commercialization of tracking and the loss of consent for being tracked.

The risks of tracking:

In the current environment where Facebook, Google, Apple and uncountable others have tremendous amounts of highly sensitive data about their users, which encompass most of the world, the threat of that data being used against individuals for non-commercial purposes rises. We have to both trust that this data will not be arbitraged to parties who have malicious intent, or lost through security vulnerabilities.

The changing environment – state surveillance:

This environment changed dramatically in 2013 with the disclosures by Edward Snowden. His leak of information about the activities of the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Canada brought forward an even larger problem than the commercial tracking problem. Worldwide suspicion-less government surveillance.

Our focus shifted dramatically as did the concerns of our customers. Many were now wanting to fight against their own governments collecting data illegally and conspiring against their own citizens as well as the citizens of their allies. The European Commission has recently agreed with this assessment by throwing out the Data Retention Directive, and enacting much stronger privacy laws than the United States and other strategic EU allies.

Technological solutions to a human problem:

VikingVPN sees its VPN services as a technological solution to a human problem. Encryption, when implemented properly, is unbreakable. This means that in places where mass surveillance is legally or illegally taking place, or that censorship is limiting the information that citizens can access, technology is a universal equalizer.

In a world where encryption exists, people are shielded from oppression. Their statements cannot be silenced by coercion or violence and their views cannot be manipulated by censorship and propaganda. Access to information and the ability to have a private life are both fundamental human rights and are perfectly in line with the interests of the European Union.

The danger of misrepresenting the problem in order to make VPN services malicious:

We are aware that this inquiry is related to concerns about copyright infringement and geo-restrictions. We believe that looking at the problem through this narrow lens misconstrues the primary purpose of VPN services, which is bring to the autonomy to reach information and the consent to divulge information back to the individual.

We would urge members of this committee to consider the impact that VPN services have on the individual around the world, versus the hurdles that VPN services pose against poor media business models. Looking at the complete picture of how encryption fits into privacy should be the primary concern of this commission.

Media companies have the power to come up with solutions beyond geo-restricting their content to charge different rates to poor nations and extract maximum profits from the world's populous. They even have ways that could be implemented today to alleviate this issue and increase their own profits. There is no alternative to encrypted Internet connections in some parts of the world, and exit IP addresses within the EU are an instrumental piece in allowing this type of freedom. Citizens of nations with censorship or surveillance are given access to free speech and free information precisely because our servers have exit IP addresses in free nations.

Enforceability and market concerns:

There is also the “Pandora's Box” concern that limiting the use of this technology will just drive the technology underground. You cannot uncreate software, and banning software is largely unenforceable as multiple nations have found out in the past. Creating restrictions on VPN services that are legitimate use will only drive businesses and tax revenue away from the European Union and into the hands of others.


In closing, I hope that this commission sees the value in VPN services beyond geolocation concerns, and can come to a reasonable solution. In our view geo-restricting content closes markets, limits trade, and encourages piracy. Media companies need to move into the new century rather than trying to impose 50 year old business practices that are unenforceable in the information age. Mischaracterizing the purposes of VPN services to serve these venerable business models is dangerous, and serves only to prolong the inevitable revolution in media access that we will have throughout this century.

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This is the end of our statement to the EC.
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The information divulged does not impact our customers in any way, but we are committed to full transparency at all times for any request for data. We were pretty alarmed to learn that the EC may be looking to take action against VPN services due to their ability to bypass geo-restricted content.

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