This post was originally published on October 29, 2020.
ExpressVPN started as a consumer VPN company 11 years ago but is so much more than that now. We’re vocal advocates for internet rights and freedom, with an ambitious goal of building a safe, private, and open internet.
We’ve learned that one of the best ways to get closer to this goal is to have an in-depth understanding of the problem—and that means high-quality research. At the same time, consumers all over the world tell us that they often feel overwhelmed and a sense of powerlessness when trying to protect themselves online.
This is where ExpressVPN’s new Digital Security Lab comes in.
We’re excited to announce that Sean O’Brien will be joining us as a Principal Researcher to establish our new research center. A fellow and affiliate of Yale and Oxford, Sean will conduct research for ExpressVPN full-time, while continuing to engage in scholarly work for the universities. He is an esteemed privacy and cybersecurity expert, and is best known for founding and leading Yale Privacy Lab. You may have read about his work in reports from the Associated Press, The Guardian, Wired, Fast Company, Vice, and many other outlets. (He was also featured on our blog earlier this year!)
“ExpressVPN has long been an industry leader in consumer privacy and security, and I have always been a fan of their work,” Sean says. “I’m excited to bring my research expertise to further empower consumers with useful information about their digital rights and security.”
As a start, the ExpressVPN Digital Security Lab will focus on three main areas:
- Investigating digital rights and security issues and educating consumers about them
- Creating tools and resources to empower individuals
- Conducting community outreach to share our work
Let’s get into some details on what that means.
Investigating digital rights and security issues and educating consumers about them
The new Digital Security Lab will focus on high-quality, original research in the areas of digital privacy, cybersecurity, access to knowledge, and information flows.
We’ve chosen to focus on these topics—which are Sean’s areas of expertise—because they impact the greatest number of internet users. We want to advance internet research to give the public a better sense of the current state of the internet, how to improve it for the future, and how they can better protect themselves. We do that by simplifying complex technical research so that it is accessible to everyone, and will publish our first research results in the next few months.
Whether or not you are currently a user of ExpressVPN, we hope that you’ll learn something useful from our Digital Security Lab.
Create tools and resources to empower individuals
You might remember the open-source leakproofing tools we released in 2017 to enable users, reviewers, and others to assess the quality of protection provided by different VPN apps. The new lab will provide more useful resources, tips, and tools available to anyone who wants to take better control of their digital privacy and security.
While the new ExpressVPN Digital Security Lab is led by Sean, we believe that good ideas can come from everywhere within our company. Our engineering, security, product, and content teams will continue to contribute to research ideas and projects.
Conduct community outreach to share our work
The research lab’s goal of discovering and building useful tools that can change consumer behavior cannot be achieved without strong awareness and education. Rather than let the good ideas gather dust, we want the world to know about them. Disseminating our work isn’t just the right thing to do, it also provides many important benefits to the end user.
“The launch of the Digital Security Lab is an important milestone for the company,” says Harold Li, Vice President, ExpressVPN. “We have ambitious plans ahead, and research helps us more deeply understand the threats people face online and how we can together better protect digital privacy, security, and rights. Ultimately, we think that will help us build a better digital future.”
Harold adds: “We’re thrilled to have someone of Sean’s caliber join us to lead these efforts and accelerate our goals of empowering everyone with the knowledge and tools to take control of their online data and experience.”
We welcome researchers, academics, developers, and others to join us in our effort to investigate and address the most challenging issues that could impact the future of the internet. If you’d like to collaborate or speak to our research team, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more, visit the ExpressVPN Digital Security Lab website.