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Famous for Volvos, meatballs, Ikea and blondes, Sweden may have now garnered a new distinction. It may be the first country where MasterCard and Visa pressured payment providers such as Payson, Sweden’s version of PayPal, to block access to iPredator and other VPN providers.
VPNs or Virtual Private Networks extend a private network across the Internet, enabling a computer to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if it were directly connected to the private network. Benefits to the user are functionality, security and anonymity. (By the way, proxies and VPNs are also easily accessible tools in the fraudsters’ arsenal. ThreatMetrix™ allows customers to uncover these masks to identify malicious users and their true intentions.)
According to torrentfreak.com, “there’s an unwritten rule that MasterCard and Visa don’t accept file-hosting sites that have an affiliate program and PayPal (in recent months) has thrown out nearly all cyberlockers….” Variously known as cloud storage services and online file storage providers, cyberlockers allow users to upload files that could then be accessed over the Internet by a different device after providing authentication. Like VPNs, cyberlockers also offer a measure of anonymity.
Torrentfreak.com reports that as a result of a requirement from Visa and MasterCard to stop accepting payments for VPN services, Payson customers were recently sent an email stating, “Payson has restrictions against anonymization (including VPN services). As a result Payson can unfortunately no longer give your customers the option to finance payments via their cards (VISA or MasterCard).”
Peter Sunde, co-founder of Pirate Bay which launched the VPN, iPredator, told torretfreak.com he thought blocking VPNs may have been a way to prevent the public from covering its tracks online and preventing government spying. “It means that U.S. companies are forcing non-American companies not to allow people to protest their privacy and be anonymous, and thus the NSA can spy even more. It’s just INSANE.” Sunde also said his company was considering legal action. And iPredator was not the only VPN affected by Payson’s change of policy. Others include Anonine, Mullvad, VPNTunnel and Privatvpn.
Torrentfreak.com says it’s “unclear why (MasterCard and Visa) are taking a stand against anonymizing services.” Guess what? It’s also unclear to MasterCard and Visa.
MasterCard was in the dark about any changes. Andrew Bowins, MasterCard’s Senior VP of External Communications explained, “Contrary to earlier reports, MasterCard has not been involved in this matter in any way. We have not placed any restrictions on Payson.”
Visa Europe told torrentfreak.com that it “has not been involved in this matter in any way, and has not made any such stipulations to Payson or to any other organization.” Visa did suggest, however, that perhaps this new policy came as a result of Payson’s “acquiring bank, which acts as an intermediary between payment processors and card associations such as Visa and MasterCard.”
A tempest in a teapot? A trial balloon to see what the reaction would be? Stay tuned.
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