Opera VPN Review Overview
Opera is a popular browser, but definitely not one we’d ever recommend using. In 2016, the company also launched Opera VPN – a 100% free, no subscription required “browser VPN.”
But what is a “browser VPN?”
Well, it’s definitely not a VPN, we can tell you that much. At best, it’s a trumped-up proxy.
But really, Opera VPN is far more devious than that – and a prime example of why we advise readers to avoid free VPNs like the plague (with almost no exceptions).
Don’t just take us at our word, though. We wrote this review so you can examine the evidence first-hand without risking your online privacy.
Take a look at How We Rate VPN Providers and see why Opera VPN only gets 1 point for pricing despite being free!
Located in… Wait, Where Is Opera VPN Actually Located?
We’re not just being cute with that subheading: no one seems to know where Opera VPN’s real headquarters are. The company is something of a mess.
Technically, Opera is a Norwegian company. The About Opera page on its website still says the headquarters are located in Oslo, easily the most recognizable city in Norway.
This isn’t exactly great news, as Norway is part of the 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes Alliance.
Here’s where it gets extra confusing…
In 2015, Opera acquired SurfEasy VPN, which is based in Canada – and Canada is a 5 Eyes jurisdiction. This is worth pointing out because even though Opera acquired SurfEasy, Opera VPN technically belongs to SurfEasy. And SurfEasy was bought by a company called Symantec in 2017.
If you read our SurfEasy VPN Review – or even our Norton VPN Review – you’ll know we don’t trust or recommend any product affiliated with Symantec. We’ll cover our reasoning again in the next section.
In any case, Symantec is an American company. And the US is one of the titular jurisdictions of the UKUSA Agreement, which became known as the 5 Eyes Alliance.
But wait – there’s more!
Symantec has since become a division of Broadcom (as of 2019), another US company.
And Opera was almost entirely acquired by a Chinese consortium in 2016, with the largest share (48%) having gone to Beijing Kunlun Tech.
Beijing Kunlun Tech’s founder and “main owner” (with 30% shares), Zhou Yahui, is still listed as Opera’s chairman/CEO. It was only 2 months after this acquisition that Opera VPN was launched.
So is Opera VPN Norwegian, Canadian, American, or Chinese?
To repeat an earlier point… nobody really knows.
But regardless, 2 things remain certain:
- No matter which jurisdiction Opera VPN falls under, it’s a bad location for online privacy.
- The lack of transparency over who really owns Opera VPN is another major red flag.
They Log – and Share – Practically All of Your Data
The random installation ID might seem anonymous, but even if it isn’t linked to your account (which you use your email address or various social media accounts to open), it is linked to your device ID.
And your device ID is more than just a personally identifiable bit of code.
Michal Špaček, a security engineer and web developer who did a deep dive on the coding used in Opera VPN, explained:
“When setting up the VPN, the browser requests something called device_id, this is subsequently sent in every request to the proxy and it survives browser restarts and reinstalls unless you also delete your user data when uninstalling. This might be used for user tracking for whatever purpose.”
This is highly similar to the type of malware and adware created by Crossrider before that particular company became Kape Technologies (see our Private Internet Access VPN Review for more details).
There’s more, though:
“When we do collect personal data, it may be transferred to partners in countries other than Singapore.”
“Our applications and services include third-party technology or code, some of which may use your data in different ways. When such third-party technologies use previously collected data, they typically act as data processors for us.”
Here’s a list of those third-party technologies:
We can’t think of a single one of those third-parties we’d be comfortable having any of our data.
So the waters are muddier than ever before.
The above excerpt alone has most of our alarm bells ringing loud and clear. Not long after, they admit to collecting all this data “for marketing and promotional purposes.”
Then they drop the following bombshell several paragraphs later:
Now, the Business Transfers point we can understand. Usually, we’re not even worried about a VPN provider adding the Legal Obligations and Rights part either, so long as there’s no data to hand over because it’s a true no-logs VPN.
But Opera VPN isn’t even a VPN, let alone one with a no-logs policy. And if Broadcom does own Opera VPN, then users are going to get thrown under the bus at the drop of a policeman’s hat.
Proxy Encryption and Zero Tunneling Protocol
Opera doesn’t mention using any kind of encryption on their website. A rep did allegedly reach out to another VPN review site to confirm Opera VPN uses HTTPS/SSL encryption.
However, this is the same kind of encryption most websites use anyway.
There’s literally a browser extension called HTTPS Everywhere, which you can use to achieve the same level of encryption. And it was developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), one of the leading non-profit organizations campaigning for online privacy, so we trust it a whole lot more that we’ll ever trust Opera.
So for all intents and purposes, you’re not getting any real encryption with Opera VPN. And there’s no tunneling protocol either.
IP and DNS Leaks Discovered
Okay, so because Opera VPN is not a real VPN, there’s no kill switch or split tunneling features for us to review.
This leaves two possibilities: your Opera browser is “protected” or Opera VPN stops communicating with the “VPN” servers and that “protection” disappears without you knowing about it.
Which is another red flag and yet another reason not to ever think Opera VPN is doing anything to protect your online privacy.
But let’s talk about whether or not Opera VPN leaks your IP address, which usually happens through WebRTC and/or DNS leaks.
Unfortunately, yes it does.
Opera is based on Google’s free, open-source browser code, Chromium, which is basically a watered-down version of Chrome. Even Chrome is a nightmare for anyone wanting to protect their online privacy, but that’s a conversation for another day.
Chromium is especially susceptible to WebRTC leaks, which happens when an API interferes with your connection security. When you experience a WebRTC leak, your IP address gets leaked – even if you’re using a VPN.
This is why we test VPNs for this weakness.
Opera seems to have implemented something similar, so we didn’t come across any WebRTC leaks. However, we did get one DNS leak as a result of Chromium doing what’s called DNS prefetching.
And that DNS leak resulted in our original IP address being broadcast to our ISP and the websites we were visiting.
You Can Only Use Opera VPN with the Opera Desktop Browser
Usually, this is where we talk about whether a VPN provider offers the Double VPN feature, sometimes called a Multi-Hop.
We’re a huge fan of the Double VPN, as it allows you to connect to a second VPN server via the first. This doubles your encryption and makes it even harder for websites to discover your location.
But Opera VPN isn’t a real VPN, so it’s rather obvious it doesn’t offer a Double VPN feature. Usually, this isn’t too much of an issue for us, as you could always use the TOR-over-VPN method.
This involves connecting to a VPN server and then connecting to the internet via the TOR Network using The Onion Router (TOR), a free proxy browser.
Of course, it’s precisely because Opera VPN isn’t a real VPN that the TOR-over-VPN method isn’t an option either.
Usually, we discuss device compatibility and connections in a separate section later on in our reviews. But the main reason Opera VPN can’t be used with TOR is due to its device compatibility, so we merged the 2 sections into one.
Opera VPN can only be used with the Opera desktop browser. Period.
Once upon a time, you could use Opera VPN on your smartphone too, provided you had the Opera browser installed. But that was done away with in 2018, probably as the 2017 acquisition by Symantec was being finalized and Opera had to admit Opera VPN technically belongs to SurfEasy.
So now it’s only available with the Opera desktop browser for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
This means you’re forced to use one of the worst browsers if you want to get substandard protection by one of the biggest marketing scams in the VPN industry.
Only 3 Very Vague Server Locations
Another mystery as puzzling as who really owns Opera VPN is how many servers and server locations there are.
First, let’s talk about how to enable Opera VPN in the first place:
- Download and install the Opera Desktop browser
- Once installation is complete, open the browser
- Open the browser’s “Settings” tab (“Preferences” on Mac computers)
- Click “Privacy & Security”
- Scroll down to the VPN box and enable Opera VPN
At this point, you’ll see a blue “VPN” icon in the address bar, similar to the Firefox Privacy Badge:
If you click on it, the drop-down box will be mostly taken up by a graph showing how much data you’ve been transferring that month. Below this, there’s a drop-down tab under the heading “Virtual location.”
Once you open that drop-down tab, you’ll find 4 very vague location options:
- Optimal location
That’s it. You don’t know which country you’re connecting to. If you’re hoping to access UK-exclusive content, you’ll have to hope the Europe option connects you to a server in the UK and not in Germany.
Not good. Not good at all.
Full disclosure: testing Opera VPN’s speeds would’ve been extremely complicated (we didn’t want to share our IP address with the “VPN”, and as such, wouldn’t have been able to do our normal speed testing process).
For this reason, we opted to skip this part as technically, Opera VPN isn’t a VPN at all. Furthermore, as you’ll come to find out (and probably already know), we absolutely do not recommend Opera Browser to anyone.
This is why, when you look at Opera VPN’s overall score chart, you’ll see “N/A” for speed.
No Netflix, No Torrenting, No Support
We’re throwing another 3 sections into 1 here because the answer for all 3 is exactly the same:
- You can’t stream Netflix because their proxy detection software can tell you’re using a proxy
- You can’t torrent safely, because your torrent client isn’t part of the Opera browser
- You can’t get any support from Opera by email and there isn’t a live chat
Opera’s FAQ section doesn’t even include anything on Opera VPN, so you’re totally on your own if you need help.