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Proxy Ethicality: Interview with SOAX

An interview with the CEO of SOAX.
Stepan Solovev
Stepan Solovev

Why should businesses care about finding an ethical provider? Do you know how to spot such a company? In this interview of our ethicality series, Stepan Solovev, the CEO of SOAX, shares his thoughts about the ethical and unethical practices in the proxy industry.

You can also check out the video interview here:

Are proxies always legal? Are they an ethical product in principle?

“The question of legality or tool ethics is always down to the action taken rather than the tool itself. And proxies are no exception. But speaking about the principle, I would say it all goes down to two questions: what the use case is and how the exit nodes were sourced.

On the one hand, if the end user knows and explicitly agrees to join the proxy network, and the customer has passed all the rigorous KYC procedures and has a legit use case for scraping, that is legit and ethical. And based on what we have seen during the last few years, I am thrilled that most market players are trying to regulate themselves in this sense, which makes our industry more transparent.”

So, what are the different ways companies acquire proxies?

“Usually, there are two most popular approaches. You either go or build relationships with businesses, where they provide you with a piece to lease – kind of B2B relationships with vendors. Or you work directly with end users, offering them some rewards or even payouts for being a proxy peer. Let’s say it’s a B2C approach to the supply side.

Of course, there are some blackhead methods to acquire proxies. We are not touching that one with a 20-foot-pole. It’s neither legal nor ethical. However, it puts the whole industry under scrutiny, and this interview series is proof of that. This makes us even more transparent and keeps on educating users.”

How is SOAX getting its proxies?

“At SOAX, from day one, we’ve been building a customer-obsessed business. So, our top priority has always been ensuring our customers are super happy. Because of that, we’ve decided to focus mainly on the B2B approach to the supply side. We have several partners that provide a piece under stringent ethical guidelines from SOAX and with whom we have long-lasting relationships. And that lets us focus on what we do best: serving our customers.”

When it comes to being a proxy peer, do you think consent is enough? And in general, is it safe to be a proxy peer?

“Safety starts with awareness. And at SOAX, we are working closely with our partners to ensure end users understand what will happen to them.

It’s interesting how GDPR was implemented in Europe. Before this law, nobody bothered to inform users properly. After GDPR came into effect, user data sharing settings became controllable by the user, where they can flexibly withdraw their rights to do anything with their data. I believe such a shift in approach can also benefit the proxy market.

We are currently working on a concept of a GDPR-like standard of opt-in for proxy peers with industry think tank bodies and compliance representatives from the UK.”

Do you receive any sort of questions about the ethicality of SOAX from the customer or proxy peer side? What sort of questions do they ask?

“Of course, we do. That was happening from day one, and the further we go, the more often we see customers who care about the ethical side of our relations with proxy peers. They want to see examples of supply providers we work with, agreement copies, and consent examples. We love such diligent clients; despite taking them longer to onboard for SOAX, their lifetime value is several times higher than those without questions.

As you can see, a healthy proxy business starts with compliance and appropriate risk management, as any business should really.”

Do you consider yourself an ethical provider? How do you ensure that?

“Yes, absolutely. SOAX is an ethical provider and I doubt you can grow a successful business without being one. We are focused on our customers, and in a way, they dictate a level of compliance and ethicality. We want them to feel safe working with us. Customer trust is being ensured not only by our vigilant checks with supply providers, strict filtering guidelines, consent requirements, but also by a very high bar of KYC procedures. For me, it seems the only way we can build something long-lasting and industry-shaping.”

How exactly has taking the ethical route affected SOAX? Did you encounter any hardships along the way?

“I wouldn’t call it a hardship but rather an informed choice. From day one, we did not allow any shady actors in our network. We put a very strict KYC procedure, even before one could access our dashboard. We limited our supply providers for the sake of ethicality. All these things were done because we aim for the creation of a huge-scale and truly unique product.

Many people leave bad reviews because we insist on them passing identity verification. We are forced to pay higher prices for supply because our requirements are stricter. But in the end, it’s all worth it because we know that our customers are getting high-quality service and, most important, safety.”

Why should businesses care about finding an ethical proxy provider?

“Usually, businesses are not ready to take on more risks, and finding an ethical proxy provider is a good way to secure operations. For example, our customers, which are building global business intelligence products, with SOAX being a crucial part of their infrastructure, do care about it. A sudden loss of this part of infrastructure means the stoppage of operations and loss of revenue. Diligent companies do not want to take such risks, so they look for trustworthy partners and are ready to pay a higher price for that.”

How can businesses know if a proxy provider is unethical? What are some of the red flags?

“Google won’t give you a straight answer, whether a company is ethical or not, so you will have to do your own research. Go and look at the company’s background and reputation.

Can you easily find the company’s LinkedIn profile, with employees proud to work there? Has the company been a part of any lawsuit or scandal? Check who their partners are. Only info could be available on their website, or you could simply request their partner list.

Does it find the support of a community? Let’s say the world ethical data forum is a good example of such a place where we are always open to all discussions. What do current users say? Read their reviews on TrustPilot, G2, or any other review platform.

Finally, what the prices are. If a provider is ten times cheaper than all others, it’s a clear red flag.”

On your landing page, you state that your IP addresses are connected to a highly reliable Proxy Exchange Platform. Could you expand more on what exactly does that mean?

“I can say that we have been building this for some time already, and it’s still a bit far from completion. We believe in efficiency, so we are building our real-time proxy exchange protocol, which allows proxies to be acquired with the same speed and simplicity as buying an ad on a website. Also keep track of proxy. There is still a long way ahead as industry adoption is not an easy fit.”

How do you think the topic of ethics will impact the proxy market in the coming years?

“I’m sure it will change the market significantly, moving ethicality into a regulation zone. There is much interest from governmental bodies and law enforcement groups in this rise of proxies, which is good. This would eventually push cybercrime activity out of our industry. But consequently, we’ll see more and more regulations imposed. And all the market players would need to adopt. The good sign is that they do care about business and try to approach this new industry carefully. As an active market player, we will continue to help and educate, ensuring our industry matures.”