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John Jantsch: Do you know marketers are collecting everything you do online and they are selling it to anybody who pays and our government is okay with that. So, today check out my conversation with Ryan Dochuk, co-founder of the VPN service called Tunnelbear. I think we all need it.
John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Ryan Dochuk. He is the CEO and co-founder of Tunnelbear. It is a service that provides simple and private web browsing. So we are going to veer off our marketing just a little bit today. So Ryan, thanks for joining us.
Ryan Dochuk: Thanks for having me John.
John: So when we were talking off air, I was talking about the need I think that everybody has for a virtual private network and a lot of people worked in big enterprises. Maybe that’s how they log in and have for years but you know, I now think that, that pretty much everybody needs one and I’m going to point to letting you explain joint resolution 34.
Ryan: Sure, so for those that aren’t familiar with it, the ISP Privacy rules changed that, I think was what most people are calling it. It was a pretty big change in online privacy for nearly all Americans. What’s really changed is you kind of think of information before whether you are browsing the web and maybe information’s being collected by one source like a Facebook or google et cetera, would be collecting about your browsing going about the web. But what’s really changed for this is the scope of online data collection for most Americans. And that really starts with the ISP and the rules that have changed. So, it used to be that ISP’s weren’t necessarily allowed to collect information. If they did they would have to get your consent to just go about doing that.
And that’s changed, so essentially today, an ISP is allowed to now collect your information. All the websites that you browse and share that information and sell that information to third parties. This could be financial situations. This could be healthcare organizations. This could be data brokers, this could be advertisers. And you know, they are already estimating this is going to be tens of billion-dollar industry of this information being re-sold. And for most of us, don’t necessarily like the idea of that information being sold to third parties. Some providers are claiming they’ll offer an opt-out in a short term. Others are not. But in general, it’s a pretty big concern.
John: Where there’s money, there won’t be any opt-out, but, so you are sitting up there in Canada right? I got that about from one of your comments, is that right?
Ryan: Fair enough.
John: So, in the US this resolution past right down party lines. And so without asking you to get into politics, what would that be?
Ryan: Well, I mean I think that you’ve seen a number of different kind of lobbyists and other groups. Or other kind of third parties like EFF, highlighting the amount of money that was being transferred from different lobbying groups to people in congress and the government. And it’s disappointing. I mean you kind of thing that there’s not really a lot of good reasons why this legislation should have been passed. It’s very—I would describe if there is a war on online privacy right now, online consumers or consumers would be losing, because of this. There’s not a lot of benefits to the consumer.
John: Yeah, I mean that—you know, let’s be really cynical and say, just seem like a money grab.
Ryan: That’s your words but I will definitely agree.
John: Okay so, what does it mean to us out there that now are appalled?
Ryan: Well, I think the first part of it is, I think you really need to kind of start thinking about what you are doing online so, and you think about what actually is happening when you browse the web and how that data might be used. So, what I’ve always thoughts about, when you think about awareness and kind of how much information you are sharing with these different groups so, all the people don’t realize today that what they do online whether that’s web searches that result in them, maybe they decide to look out something related to financial history. Maybe you decide to do something search about bankruptcy. Or maybe you are searching up healthcare you know, issues.
You know I for my example, also I’m a little bit of a kind of a worry wort so I start searching up things around maybe I have a cold or maybe I have a headache and I start searching up things online. What people don’t realize is that, that browsing history is now being taken in consideration into the things that they do. So maybe for example, you decide to apply for health insurance or life insurance at a later date. That information around your historic web browsing might be taken in consideration.
Not just you know, from a few days back or few months back but for your entire life time. This information could be available to third parties or maybe deciding whether or not they want to give you a health or life insurance plan. And I think that the same goes for you know, financial services. They maybe applying for maybe your next credit card. Maybe your next car loan. All of these things are going start being impacted by your web browsing and web history. And I think for a lot of people that’s concerning. Because you don’t necessarily know you have control over it. And a lot of people aren’t even in fact, aware of this at all.
John: Yeah. That takes that adds the data level that’s pretty scary. Because I mean, we’ve always kind of had shown me people who have bought a new house in the last 30 days. That kind of data I think it’s been readily available to advertisers. But as you said, you know now it’s going to add so much level to it that will actually allow, you know in some cases push advertising at us. But as you hinted, perhaps actually exclude us from opportunities based on you know, couple of searches which—because I think a lot of people think, oh I don’t visit porn sites or I don’t do illegal activity online. Why would I care? But I think it’s really much deeper than that, isn’t it?
Ryan: Yeah, I think that, I mean it’s amazing to me you know, I think six years into working on Tunnel bear, I am trying to find different ways to communicate the importance of online privacy and there’s a few different ways that are my favorites. I know, you might be familiar with Edward Snowden who kind of leaked, NSA documents few years ago. I think he has a pretty clever way of saying you know, saying you don’t need to worry about online privacy is because you have nothing to hide. It’s like we don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say. And obviously that’s kind of more of a political than non-things. But I think that this idea that online privacy is important to the average person. It’s actually really important. Both are kind of a system in the political level.
That we have kind of this privacy and ability to discuss kind of sensitive topics amongst others as well as I think just the awareness of how much information that’s been kind of shared with you with third parties and awareness and control over that information.
You know, even simple examples of from a marketing perspective, you know my grandfather always used to say, you know negotiate everything. Make sure you are getting a great deal on it. So we go to a buy a Coach at the local store and make sure that we kind of get a deal on that. But today when you arrive at a website, you may not realize that they are kind of—you are arriving at a website with a deck against you. So they may know that. You know, you went 4-5 sites before that. You have been searching this term for a while. And they are kind of prepared to kind of give you a price attire lower based on your social economic circumstance. You know, I think that’s already a case for that where that’s happening for airline flights.
John: Yeah, well definitely. I mean, I see it happening on amazon prime of dynamic pricing where you know, they know that I am a sucker every time I go to amazon. You know, I don’t even look at the price. I just buy and they are definitely documented cases of that.
Ryan: I think this is just a beginning.
John: Yeah yeah yeah, so let’s dive into—I want to circle back to this marketing but you know, so far all we’ve been doing is scaring people. So, let’s talk a little bit about what Tunnelbear does and what VPN is in general?
Ryan: Yeah. So a VPN or in this case Tunnel bear basically what it does is, information as it’s leaving your computer it basically means it basically encrypts that information or makes it unreadable. And then sends that information to server in another location. That could be within your country. Might be in another country. And at that point it’s kind of unencrypted and send to the internet. This provides a few different benefits. The first benefit is: it relates to the ISP privacy rules change. Because your ISP’s you kind of think of them between you and the internet. And us, protecting you along the way. Your ISP’s won’t be able to read any of the data that’s sent through their connection.
That means that any websites you browse, or kind of any applications you use or how you connect will not be available to your ISP. Just they’ll that you are using data but they won’t know exactly what you are doing and where you are going. How you are going about it. The other benefit is from kind of, more broader perspective. One of the most common ways that people are trying to cross the internet is their IP address. And for those of you who aren’t familiar with that, basically it’s the unique number that the internet kind of gives you when you go and connect to it. And when you use Tunnelbear the IP address is kind of hidden or masked. It’s given to you when people you go to website and you have to pair on. It will just give them an IP address that relates to Tunnelbear and the benefit is, you know is this unique number.
They can track the unique number across. For example, advertising networks or other kind of a variety of different ways people are tracked online. In this way, they’ll just see Tunnel bear as opposed to having a unique number that matches that. That number often also tells you close proximity to your geographical location or your physical location as well as its a convenient way that people are tracked online.
John: So let’s flip around, I mean I suppose somebody who does want to participate in shady activity using a VPN would be, allow them to do that, wouldn’t it?
Ryan: Well, I mean I think there’s a bunch of different scenarios. I think for people who are looking to do shady activities, there is lots of different ways that people can kind of go and mask and hide their identity online. VPN’s are definitely a way where people can kind of pursue that opportunity. But I think that, you know I like to think of the general population as being overwhelmingly good. And kind of, entitled to online privacy, as opposed to kind of looking at it as a few bad apples who want to cause harm who in all like hood find a way to do bad things and browse a little more privately regardless.
John: Well given that, some of the privacy has been given away, I mean does that suggest that perhaps where people they don’t think that, like the NSA, for example in the United States that are maybe go and look at somebody and say, “oh! You are using a VPN. What do you have to hide?”
Ryan: Well I think there’s already examples as leaked by Edward Snowden. But I think that identify that people who use VPN’s and other encryption were kind of priority targets for kind of those intelligent agencies. I would think of it as the opposite of that. I think that the standard should be not looked upon is, you know it shouldn’t be an anomaly that we use basic privacy and security tools to protect ourselves online. And in an ideal world everybody would be using great online privacy security tools and we’ve been looking at this as an anomaly and I think that would-be kind of an ideal outside of kind of viewing it from that perspective.
In terms of kind of priority targeting. I mean I think that when I think about those groups and if you are the type of person who is really concerned about the NSA maybe you are kind of a reporter in a vulnerable position or has sensitive information, there’s dozens of different things that we should be thinking about beyond just VPN’s to make sure that you are secure online. And it’s important they kind of think about that. But you know, VPN is kind of just one of the ways that people can protect themselves. But not necessarily the only way or a way that they would use, for example get around NSA targeting.
John: So what are some of the—if you are a small business owner and you’re out there saying, [00:12:14] okay that privacy thing that gets my interest but are there other benefits of using a tool or service like Tunnelbear?
Ryan: For sure. One of the most common reasons why people use Tunnelbear is actually through basic WIFI security. So maybe for small business owner and you are working at cafe’s or airports or hotels. A lot of people don’t realize that it’s pretty trivially easy to kind of attack a router and either commandeer it or bring your own router and kind of create a fake signal that people connect to you called free WIFI. And you know, when you do that you put yourself in problem position to having your—whether it’s identity theft or hijacking kind of certain passwords and information through different websites. You know, it’s pretty easy to do that. So, by using Tunnel bear and if you decide to go use public WIFI, whether it is when you are travelling or maybe you are at a cafe’, airport et cetera. You can protect yourself from having different hackers maliciously kind of try and get some of your information.
John: Hey, thanks for listening to the Duct tape marketing podcast. If you like this one, you might also like my other podcast: The consulting spark. Where I interview independent marketing consultants and agency owners. We talk about how they built their business and the struggles they face. And what they love about being in this business. So you can check it out at: ducttapemarketingconsultant.com.
Okay, now a really serious question. What’s up with the bear?
Ryan: Yeah, that really starts out at Tunnelbear. We first got started around 6 years ago. Myself and another co-founder we came from a very serious kind of enterprise. Mobile security startup. And we saw an opportunity at VPN space. Really at the time where all the VPN’s were technical to use, really complicated.
And we decided we wanted to do something different. We want to make something that’s just a VPN that was just trivially easy to use. You could just literally use on or off. It did his job in the background and it just got out of your way. And with that, we also want to make it a little more fun and approachable. So, all of the time we always joke that they are kind of old guard around security is like a lock and key. You know, a blue and white shield with a lock and key. And we always like to joke in the app store today. If you go and search for apps, you have you know, if you search for VPN’s or other kind of sources, nine out of 10 of them are lock and shields that are blue and white and then we have a bear popping out of a tunnel. I’ll tell you a little secret. We actually have the domains for about 4 or 5 different animals. I think we have tunnel bunny and tunnel dog and a tunnel of other ones but we actually settled on bears because they are both kind of strong and protecting but also kind of cute and cuddly and we thought that would-be kind of a good connection with our customers.
John: There’s been a nobility around bears too.
Ryan: Yeah yeah. And we ran with it, so we have lots of bear puns and all that stuff so, sometimes we take it a little too far.
John: You have owned it. I’ll give you that. So that’s awesome. So I had a quick question myself. So this is kind of long more personal question. A lot of the apps and the tools we use today depend on knowing what our location is. Does that become problematic?
Ryan: Yes and no. I mean, I think for certain services, I think one of the more common challenges you run into is for example, you know banks that when to verify that you are within a certain country. Is that sometimes you will have a scenario where they are more likely to run into a—if you choose an ultimate country than from where you originally connect from, then they will say okay, you know, make sure you call this number before you connect to my bank. But it’s not too much of a significant problem. I think for other users the option turns it off is always there. And on our Android application and which work on other applications, you can actually only tunnel certain apps if you are having issues with a certain app you can always kind of choose to tunnel just a single app. But I don’t know. If you’ve had problems with yourself?
John: No. No no no. I’ll just tell you the ones that drive me crazy, is the MLB app. And they won’t let me watch in market baseball games. I was trying to figure out a way to like to tell them I was in Denver. [00:16:12] So I can watch the game. But you are not giving me much hope there.
Ryan: Let us on weekend, we can look and make sure TunnelBear is working properly.
John: So and I will say to your earlier point, dead simple to set up, does have the—I think the user interface that’s very approachable. Certainly, you know better than me. I am a customer so all I can say, what are we paying? Not very much for all the security in my opinion like 5 bucks a month or something, right?
Ryan: Yeah, that’s right. I think it’s right now we are $60 a year so it works into about 5 bucks a month.
John: So a company that talks about security and talks about internet privacy and kind of hold themselves out there, has to actually take some of this. They have to practice what they preach as well. So do you take kind, at least I believe they do, do you take kind of special interest in saying, hey! we want to hold ourselves out there as an example for what privacy as a marketer should be?
I think what a lot of people don’t really think about is how that information, how they collect it that can actually also be a liability in circumstances. With all the different services that are being compromised on a regular basis or whether them having kind of too much data and not really being able to make sense of it through kind of good analytics and insights. In TunnelBear we really took a minimal approach to how much we start collecting data from day one.
Another example is credit cards. You know we used to collect a lot more credit card information and postal codes. Because it helped us with our anti-fraud activities. After a while, we realized that you know through different strategies we didn’t necessarily need that information before. We kind of reviewed on annual basis and removed it. And kind of just putting this out there as transparency is to our users so that they know that we are making the effort to minimize how much information that we collect up on our users. And if we do have to collect some information for business reasons, the reasons why we do it and having this kind of transparent relationship with them has been really important for us. And you know we know for— we have a high degree of confidence, for example, we know we can be very transparent with our users and they know that we do what we say we do.
John: Yeah and I think that you, in a fact you are putting a little bit of target on yourself, you know when you put yourself out there as a company that is fighting the good fight for whatever you are fighting for that you do have to. I mean it’s like every time I read an article, like the 5-biggest grammar mistakes you can make and I guarantee you, I will get responses to that with people showing the grammar mistakes that I’ve made. So it definitely I think, it bodes well for the brand and I think it also is a great example for people to follow. So Ryan, where can people find out more about—really, I think just privacy in general, but then obviously also about Tunnelbear?
Ryan: For sure. So you can go to tunnelbear.com (T-U-N-N-E-L B-E-A-R) and you could go to our website. If you are looking for kind of the latest around privacy information, I think there are few different sites that have a great update. eff.org or electronic frontier foundation is a great job, I think summarizing and kind of promoting online privacy and electronic rights based in US. Open media does a great job. Out here in Canada and other countries. And I think if they are looking to really simple apps to help them browse more privately online and maybe avoid ISP data collection, then Tunnelbear is a great place to start.
John: Awesome. Thanks for taking the time to join today and hopefully we’ll catch with you out there on the road.
Ryan: Great. Thanks John.
John: Hey, thanks for listening to this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. What if you could do me a favor? Could you leave an honest review on iTunes? Your ratings and reviews really help and I promise, I read each and every one.