In the face of ever-growing concerns about hacking and online surveillance, Opera Software -- the Norway-based firm known for its multi-platform family of Web browsers -- has acquired the Canadian company SurfEasy, which provides a virtual private network (VPN) solution for desktop and mobile communications. Financial details about the deal were not disclosed.
Opera has amassed more than 350 million Opera Web browser and apps users around the world since its founding in 1995. SurfEasy, which is headquartered in Toronto, was founded four years ago with the goal of "making online privacy, security and freedom accessible to everyone."
Announced Thursday, the acquisition is expected to lead to a "powerful collaboration and venture into joint products, expanding on Opera's product footprint," according to a statement from Opera.
A 'Seamless Fit'
"More and more Internet users are starting to question whether they can trust the Internet these days, and are actively looking for secure solutions for their phone or computer," said Lars Boilesen, CEO of Opera Software. "Privacy and security has always been top of mind for Opera's users, making the acquisition of SurfEasy a seamless fit."
Writing in a blog post on his company's Web site, SurfEasy founder and CEO Chris Houston said the acquisition represents "the next step in our company's evolution."
"Over the past few years the dialogue and awareness around online privacy issues has increased dramatically," Houston said. "We are all now very aware just how vulnerable our data is to hacking, monitoring and censorship, regardless of the network or device you're using to access the Web."
For SurfEasy's existing customers, "nothing will change," he said. "In the near future, you can expect expanded service and even better support, as we strive to remain at the forefront of privacy innovation."
A spokeswoman for Opera told us that following the acquisition, which is effective immediately, SurfEasy will be referred to as "an Opera company." She added, "We can't speculate on future releases at this time, however we envision a powerful collaboration and venture into joint products, expanding on Opera's product footprint."
Vast Majority Worry about Online Privacy
The SurfEasy acquisition will provide Opera with "a critical building block towards a broader portfolio of applications," Boilesen said. SurfEasy's virtual private network offering will encrypt all Internet traffic for Opera's users, providing online identity and browsing security in settings requiring the use of public Wi-Fi.
In its most recent U.S. Consumer Confidence Privacy Index survey, the data privacy management company TRUSTe found that 92 percent of Internet users said they worried to some extent about their online privacy. Of respondents who expressed such concerns, 36 percent said they were concerned about cyberthreats such as the Heartbleed bug and 28 percent said they were bothered by government surveillance programs such as PRISM, in which the U.S. National Security Agency has demanded data about citizens' online communications from a number of major U.S.-based Internet and companies.
Consumer trust in business security is also low, the TRUSTe survey found. Only 55 percent of those surveyed said they trusted most companies with their personal information online, and 91 percent said they avoided doing business with companies they believed did not do enough to protect online privacy.