Security Social Media

The Truth Behind Vero’s Privacy Claims and Strange Success

James Frew 13-03-2018

New social network Vero takes its name from the Latin for “truth” and has positioned itself as a privacy-focused social network.


But press releases and marketing show us only what the company wants us to see. We were curious: what’s really behind the hype?

Vero’s Privacy Policy

In February 2018, the social media “upstart” Vero saw a surprise and very sudden untick in new users. In the crowded world of social networking, Vero hopes to stand out by offering an ad-free social network for everyone.

Like many prior social media upstarts, they aim to build a “true social” platform with heavy emphasis on the “social”.

A company’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Service are the two most important documents you need to read. They inform you how the company operates, collects and uses data, and what you can do about it. They are long, jargon-laced documents—likely intentional—but are essential reading before handing over your personal data.

online privacy


Vero’s Privacy Policy offers no surprises. They use cookies, store your data in multiple countries, and will share your data internally and with their service providers. In keeping with their ad-free stance, there is no mention of data sharing arrangements with advertisers.

While all of this seems reasonable on the surface, in late February 2018, the company came under criticism for the way it phrased certain segments of its Terms of Service. The terms appeared to imply that Vero would own any content you posted to their app. They quickly verified that this wasn’t the case and amended the wording. However, Vero isn’t the first company to have fallen into this trap.

In 2012, Instagram upset many users when they updated their Terms of Service and implied they owned your content. As it happens, both services currently have the same approach to user content: you own your content, but the company is able to license it Do I Own My Photos and Posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? When you post a photo, a status update, or anything else on social media, who owns the copyright? Is Facebook or Twitter free to do whatever it wants with your pictures? Read More .


The Russians Are Coming

There seems to be nothing these days that isn’t in some way touched by allegations of Russian meddling. The Russians have been implicated in everything from Brexit, to the 2018 Winter Olympics, and the 2016 US Presidential Election.

Unfortunately Vero doesn’t seem to have evaded allegations of Russian influence either. As noted by Pasquale De’Silva on Twitter, most of Vero’s development team appear to be Russian:

While this has been spun as yet another example of Vladimir Putin’s attempt to undermine the Western world, it could simply be that they were talented developers suitable for the job. There have also been claims that Vero’s CEO Ayman Hariri—or more specifically his brother (and Prime Minister of Lebanon), Saad Hariri—has ties to Putin.


The allegations revolve around a meeting between Saad Hariri and Putin in late 2017. It could be part of a large Russian conspiracy How Government Propaganda Is Undermining Your Online Security Thanks to the internet, government propaganda comes from all directions, and the messages are mixed. In a world of cyber warfare and hacking, who can you trust? Even then, can you really rely on them? Read More … or it could just be evidence of two world leaders meeting as world leaders tend to do.

Courting Controversy

Not long after Vero exploded into the mainstream, its CEO was linked to unethical behavior at his former company.

Ayman Hariri was previously the CEO of the construction company Saudi Oger. In 2015, Saudi Oger found itself in financial difficulty, which resulted in the company’s migrant workers stranded in Saudi, homeless, unpaid, and without food.

Vero found itself at the sharp end of a backlash after it was uncovered that Hariri had served as the company’s CEO.


However, in documents disclosed to Mashable, Vero proved that Hariri divested himself in 2014, before the company found itself in financial trouble. The complication is that, as late as 2016, Vero still referred to Hariri as the CEO of Saudi Oger in press releases.

It’s unclear why they chose to do this, aside from Hariri’s claim that he was proud of the company that his father set up. Whether you view this as a deal breaker for Vero will be down to your personal beliefs. However, it does somewhat taint the company as it positions itself in the moral highground.

Behind Vero’s Success and Future

Despite the sudden interest in Vero, the fledgling social network has been around since 2015. There’s no clear reason for the explosive curiosity in Vero, but dissatisfaction with current market leaders may have something to do with it.

Despite that, it is unusual for an app to see such rapid growth after three years on the market. Vero spent its first few years courting celebrities and creators. This was a diverse group of people including Grammy-nominated music producer StarRo, GQ magazine, and, bizarrely, British political commentator Andrew Neil.

According to Forbes, Vero’s CEO Ayman Hariri was worth $1.3 billion as of February 2018. While many people may find the idea of a “startup” created by a billionaire hard to stomach, it may be this mighty financial backing that has allowed Vero to get off the ground.

Unlike almost the entire internet, Vero is not ad-supported. Instead, the company aims to make money from subscriptions.

Initially Vero offered a lifetime subscription free to the first million users. However, at the time of writing, this offer has been extended indefinitely. Unsurprisingly this has lead to doubts over how likely the business model is to succeed.

Out With the Old, In With More of the Same

Although it seems Vero is already on the turn from their status as social media saviors, there’s a lot to be said for their approach.

From the allegations against Vero’s CEO to the backlash against their Terms of Service, Vero has swiftly felt a knock to its reputation. It may not be the grassroots upstart you think it is, but Vero is focused on user-privacy.

The subscription model does away with the need for intensive data collection—a trait that has been the hallmark of social media It Doesn't Matter If You're Not On Facebook: They're Still Tracking You A new report claims the Facebook is tracking people without their permission. It doesn't matter if you don't use social networking service: they're still watching you. What can you do about it? Read More for over a decade. Currently, Vero stands as an impressive challenger to the dominance of the old social networks. If it can avoid any further scandals, then it may realise its potential as a “true social” network.

Related topics: Online Privacy, Vero.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. dragonmouth
    March 14, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    "Vero hopes to stand out by offering an ad-free social network for everyone."
    For how long? When cable TV came along, it also promised to be ad-free. For a little while, it was. Now, even the infomercials are interrupted with commercials.

    "There seems to be nothing these days that isn’t in some way touched by allegations of Russian meddling."
    Don't you know that acne, dandruff and fluoridated water are the results of Russian meddling in our daily lives?! Have you checked under your bed lately? A Russian might be hiding there. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was popular and fashionable to blame all kinds of problems on Russian nuclear tests. Seems like the Red Menace paranoia is back. All we need now is someone to reprise the role of Sen. Joe McCarthy.

    Let's face it. ALL social media sites harvest their customers' data, no matter what they declare in their privacy policies. Some, like Google and Facebook, manage to collect data on those that are not their customers or use their products.