Google’s new flagships series, Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, will come with free access to the VPN (Virtual Private Network) service from Google One, according to a press release from Google. The feature is otherwise packed with the premium plan of Google One — the company’s cloud storage service. However, Google has said that users will have to subscribe to the plan to access other features.
Furthermore, Google has confirmed that these models will be available in India (at Rs. 59,999 and Rs. 84,999 respectively) unlike the company’s previous models which did not get an India launch.
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Why it matters: It makes for an interesting announcement given India’s latest cybersecurity guidelines which directs service providers to maintain information on customers for five years. But it remains to be seen whether the company offers the service in the country given that the announcement carried a whole bunch of caveats in the tweet.
What does it offer: The feature adds an extra layer of protection from hackers and makes it difficult for them to monitor your phones. It will encrypt the phone’s online activity, the help page explained.
It also helps users hide their IP address which prevents others from tracking their location.
When will it be launched: The company said that the phones will go on sale from October 13 but did not provide an exact date for its VPN service. It is likely that the feature will arrive towards the end of 2022, as per a report from 9to5Google.
Will it be available in India: The company has not revealed whether the service will be available in India but one of the caveats clarified that the service will not be available in all the countries.
- A cursory scan of the VPN service’s help page reveals that its VPN service is only offered in a handful of countries across the world. The page stated that the service is available in only 22 countries—
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
- United States
- It means that it is unlikely that Google will be offering VPN access to Pixel users in India. It is not clear why India is not a market in which Google offers its VPN service but it will not be far-fetched to assume that the Central government’s contentious guidelines may have a role to play here.
- The guidelines have made it difficult for VPN providers to operate in the country with many of them making a beeline towards the exit door.
Are there competition concerns: It is no secret that Google has been facing regulatory scrutiny over antitrust concerns across the world including India.
- The availability of the feature in all Pixel phones is likely to make other VPN providers anxious given how Google has dealt with phone manufacturers and developers for its Android operating system and Chrome browser. The regulators may want to keep a close eye because of Google’s past behaviour.
Understanding India’s cybersecurity guidelines: The new cybersecurity directive was issued by the Indian government’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) on April 28 and covers aspects related to the timeframe for reporting cybersecurity incidents, synchronisation of system clocks, maintenance of logs, maintenance of KYC and transaction information for crypto exchanges, and maintenance of detailed customer information for VPN, cloud service, data centre providers. The directive was criticised by cybersecurity and privacy experts, VPN providers, and tech companies for a long list of reasons.
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