When it comes to data privacy, Indians aren’t the most careful. As various security reports have shown, most users in India don’t take data privacy and security very seriously. According to a Norton report, while Indians love using public WiFi, they often ignore the risks that come with it.
Privacy might not be on top of our minds when it comes to surfing the web on smartphones, but companies like Opera have made it their main mission. Opera has in fact tied up with players like Samsung, Micromax, etc to help users save data on their smartphones. But their other product Opera Max the focus shifts to privacy and safe surfing.
“Today, especially in India, which is the hottest and fastest Android growing market, there are two problems: Affordability, and the second is anonymity and privacy especially at WiFi, and there are a lot of public WiFi systems coming up in India; the govt is putting, Google is putting WiFi,” points out Sergey Lossev, Head of Product, Opera Max in an interaction with IndianExpress.com. He explains the company’s approach to privacy and why they build a privacy timeline with Opera Max.
“Android N has a data-saving button, but only 0.3 per cent devices in the market have this feature. Data-saver is not available on a lot more budget phones. And the same goes for privacy. VPN is baked into the Google OS in the Pixel phone. This is a very new idea, which I think will take off in the next two, three years. But these phones cost a lot more money and are expensive,” he points out.
Opera’s solution is something that can be used across Android smartphones, irrespective of the price. For example, Samsung’s J series comes baked with S-Secure feature and Data Saver mode, which is powered by Opera. Lossev argues that phones from the Samsung J series are much more private than other devices on the market. “Opera Max gives data privacy for all phones, even if they are not high-end. Samsung has partnered with us; there’s two devices called J7, J5 Prime, which have both data-savings built in and privacy mode from Opera Max,” he argues.
He points out Opera Max is more private than Google’s Secure WiFi. “Privacy can be like climate change, it is happening but like you can’t see it happening. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something about it. Opera Max analyses what all of your app does and visualises the risks that are there.” For instance, when you go in the Opera Max app, and the light is red, it means the privacy mode is off. A user just has to tap on the button, and it goes green, indicating the privacy mode is on.
“Privacy is different from security; we’re not saying the app is putting your credit card at risk, but it’s just that other people are watching you. What Opera Max does is that it flags high risk events and shows what happens and when it happens. You get a breakdown report; especially when an app deliberately tried sharing your data with a third-party,” says Opera Max’s product manager.
The app also offers protection in case of public WiFi, especially where someone might be trying to intercept traffic, data from a user’s laptop. “So we add an extra layer of encryption; break through the Opera lock first and then the app’s lock,” points out Lossev.
Opera says their Max product has grown to 40 million active users per month in the last 15-16 months. However, the company does rely on the ads in the timeline UI to pay for the service; but these only appear when you go to check on the statistics.
In Opera Max, users can scroll down the timeline and can see real-time privacy alerts. Max will show what an app did in a particular session and it also blocks all forms of ad-tracking. Opera relies on the EasyPrivacy filter list, which is an open-source platform used by other ad-blocking services as well in order to block these ad-trackers.