Does A Private VPN Service Actually Keep Your Privacy?
A Guide To VPN Users And Privacy with VPNs
Yes and No.
If you've read my blog before, then you'll know that I am certainly not a VPN power user. Some of the technical aspects of VPN use is beyond me. But over the years I have learned quite a bit by bugging the staff at various VPN companies to explain it in simple terms.
On the subject of privacy, there is a lot of grey area. A lot more than the VPN companies would have you think, and certainly more than the forums or r/VPN would actually know.
Not-Interested VPN User
This person doesn't care about privacy, they probably want a VPN to stream Netflix or other streaming TV content outside of the country. Privacy?! Who cares! Give me some episodes of Mad Men and Breaking Bad and the NSA can collect all the data they want on me.
Take note of who has good apps and fast customer support. It'll make signing into the VPN and troubleshooting much easier for you.
Average VPN User for Privacy
For the a day to day user of a VPN service that is looking for privacy online, by all means, most VPN services do just fine. These users are worried that they'll get in trouble for using Pirate Bay or that the NSA can see what they are browsing at 2:00 AM in the morning.
Pretty much any VPN company will do, so long as they have the server location you want, at the price point you are looking for. One thing to consider is picking a VPN service that chooses which sites you use a VPN with. VPN.tv does that as a Chrome extension, and 12VPN does it too.
This is a great if you are only worried about your privacy *sometimes*. I know a privacy advocate will chime in here and say, “Well, you should be worried all the time!”. But the fact of the matter is that most people only get nervous about who's watching when they think they are doing something wrong.
On that note, you should also know that not all VPN Services allow torrents, and most are pretty quick to cut off accounts that get DMCA notices.
VPN User Requiring Security
Though “privacy” in the sense that the NSA is spying on you may be of no concern to you, it's still a real possibility that someone on your internet connection could be spying on you and using that data to steal your information.
This can happen on any shared connection, including dorm wifi, cafe wifi, airport wifi, or your homes wifi (especially if you are living in an apartment building where signals are very close).
You'll want to be connected to a VPN pretty much all the time, but you might not necessarily be interested in all the technical details of VPN protocols, types of encryption, etc etc.
The service you are looking for here is VyprVPN. They have fast, reliable VPN apps, good customer service, and a very user-friendly vibe about their site. Many of the more technical aspects of VPN use are explained on their site in layman's terms.
I really like this VPN service and they are my #1 recommendation at this time.
VPN Power User
For the VPN user looking for true privacy and true internet anonymity, you are going to have to work harder than just signing up to a VPN.
First off, most VPN services say they don't keep logs. However, the vast majority log things like timestamps, duration of connection, and the IP that was used to connect to the VPN. What this means is that there's basically a trail of bread crumbs that can lead back to you. This happened with HMA and some hackers a few years ago.
Well, first off you should check where the VPN service you're using is based out of. If they're in the US, you're screwed. The US government can get a hold of anything they want. They may have to go the legal way around it, or they can just do it, then invent the legal way later.
But once you are outside the US, is the story any different? Do you think you'd have an easier chance keeping the government out of your business in the UK? France? Argentina? Italy?
Personally, I think that while the US has privacy issues, it's still one of the safer nations as far as requiring some kind of legal reason to request customer data, seize servers, etc. Don't believe me? I lived outside the US for 10 years in Europe and China.
So what it boils down to is where you are most comfortable having your VPN company set up.
- 12VPN is based out of Hong Kong
- VyprVPN is based out of Switzerland
- Private Internet Access is based out of the US
Speaking of Private Internet Access, this is one company that all VPN power users should take a serious look at. They have been featured in many articles as one of the most private, most highly rated VPN services out there. Two years in a row they were named the #1 choice of VPNs by Torrent Freak
Apparently they don't keep any logs of any kind, and they even use shared IPs, which means it would be impossible to link any one user to any one VPN IP.
So, which user are you?