Warning: Beware privacyroot.com

The issues with so-called freeware available from privacyroot.com were first brought to our attention by Marko, owner and administrator of our recommended freeware download site FreewareBB. The privacyroot.com home page displays summarized details of four software titles, three of which are clearly specified as being free:

However, when you download, install and run the software you will see a link at the bottom of the interface to “Register Now”. Clicking on that link takes you to a privacyroot ‘Buy Now’ page for payment:

Now, that on its own is not exactly a big deal, many freeware titles require registration, donation or payment to remove nag screens, popups, or ads. But note the statement I have underlined in the screenshot above: ““Extra functions of the software will be available to you after purchase. This clearly indicates there are limitations associated with the so-called freeware, and definitely raises some serious doubts. I could not locate anything on the privacyroot site which compares features between registered and unregistered. Nothing which identifies what features are missing in the unregistered software nor what extras one gains for registration/payment. So I downloaded and installed the ‘Wipe’ software to see for myself; sure enough the only deletion method enabled in the free version is standard/basic deletion which offers no level of security at all – all secure deletion methods are disabled:

Attempting to select any of the secure deletion options brings up this screen:

This completely contradicts information included in the software’s official description on the privacyroot site – remember, the following is pertaining to the free version:

WIPE incoporates US DoD 5220.22-M, Gutmann ( full 39 steps ) and Russian GOST algorithms to completely erase your personal and private data, making deleted usage tracks unrecoverable.

The lack of any secure deletion is no minor limitation, it is a major consideration. I haven’t checked out either of the other two titles involved, but safe to assume they would be similarly crippled. This is misleading at best and borders on fraudulent behavior. One can only surmise that this is a deliberate ploy to entice people into installing the “free” version in the hope that some will then actually pay to obtain the disabled features they thought they were getting in the first place.

I sent off an email to privacyroot support seeking anwers – this was their very short and totally unsatisfactory reply:

In a free version only “simple delete” method available. In registered version all deletion methods will be available.

Unfortunately, this type of behavior is becoming more and more common place. Maybe the regulatory authorities should worry less about censoring our internet and take a closer look at the tactics being employed by some of these developers.

Marko’s original FreewareBB thread can be viewed HERE

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About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

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