Virtual private network services have become one of the most important tools for internet users who want to secure their privacy and protect their data while connected to public WiFi networks. It’s also true that the market is filled with inadequate VPNs instead of genuinely secure services.
Depending on how much digging you did before you bought a subscription, you could end up with a product that’s vastly different from the one you thought you were getting.
Choosing a service that provides legitimate privacy is one of the most important things you can do today. With the way modern VPNs work, users have no choice but to trust the VPN provider when they connect to one of the company’s servers. VPN providers have access to the user’s browsing activity, personal data and other sensitive information.
This is just one reason why VPNs must go through a more rigorous vetting process than almost any other product. VPNs themselves should also expect to be more vulnerable to criticism than other internet products. Without proper due diligence, it’s easy to end up giving one’s data to shady individuals and organizations.
What to Look for in a VPN
What does a VPN do that makes it good for privacy? There’s no single feature that can determine if a VPN is good for privacy or not. You need to take a holistic look at the VPN providers you’re evaluating.
By some measures, more than 25% of regular internet users have downloaded a VPN provider in the past to hide their private information. This shows how important online privacy has become. As a result, it’s important to take as many steps and precautions as possible to make sure you use a VPN provider that offers decent privacy above all else.
Note:The best VPN providers are the ones willing to ensure that no single entity can see their customer’s data or browsing habits, including your ISP and the VPN provider itself.
Apart from that, there are several qualities to look for while looking for a VPN provider.
From a technical standpoint, good VPN providers are transparent about the way they work and how they safeguard not only their own business but also the business of their customers. A VPN that’s worth your money should offer all the latest industry-standard security features.
Of course, there are lots of other features that VPN providers can offer to make their service more attractive. Some VPN providers offer anonymous payment methods like gift cards and Bitcoin. Then there are those that allow their users to use open source software whenever possible.
This brings us to the problem of DNS and IP leaks. Some privacy services can’t protect you against these leakage problems. Simply put, if a VPN is leaking your data then there’s no point in using that service since your government or ISP will be able to see your internet browsing information.
Any VPN service that’s serious about protecting user data and providing privacy will multiple security measures.
Moreover, it will likely spend significant resources to incorporate some of the most advanced privacy standards available.
Pro Tip:While searching for good VPN services, you may come across claims of a zero-logs policy. While the policy sounds great, few VPNs implement it properly. If a VPN does it right then it means that it doesn’t keep any identifying data on its users.
Elite VPN providers will only log information that’s absolutely critical. These include things like server location, server load and bandwidth used by an individual consumer.
Some providers collect data to optimize their service, which is also harmless. However, if you find that your privacy service is logging information like original IP addresses or the websites you visit and DNS requests then you need to cancel your subscription immediately.
For one reason or another, VPNs usually shy away from having clear privacy policies. Instead, they go with vague statements and complicated legalese that the average user might not understand. We know of very few VPNs that clearly state their data logging policies.
Jurisdiction and Location
In our experience, this is one factor that a lot of people tend to ignore or overlook. Just like any other service, VPNs are offering users a product. As a result, just like every other business, they have to follow the rules and regulations of the country they are based in.
This is important:You need to be aware of those regulations so you’re better able to judge whether or not your privacy is preserved once you sign up with a VPN provider.
Of course, if a VPN provider wants to provide watertight privacy then the jurisdiction under which it works shouldn’t matter. Read through some older articles on the VPN you’re interested in to learn whether or not it’s cooperated with law enforcement agencies via a warrant canary. Read more about the laws of the country in which the privacy service is based as well.
What Does a VPN Hide?VPN providers are businesses meaning that they need to generate money to stay in business. The question of how a VPN makes money should be at the top of your priority list when looking for potential candidates. Some privacy services monetize their users’ traffic in ways that are considered unethical.
So what’s the VPN doing with your data (online activities and browsing history along with your IP address) when you’re not using a VPN server? Truth be told, it’s hard to develop, operate and improve VPN services. This is where VPNs usually have to cut corners and seek multiple ways to make money which may or may not be acceptable to their customers.
To break even, some privacy services sell users’ information after collecting their data. Then there are those privacy services that take advantage of advertising opportunities to make even more money.
Needless to say, all such activities compromise user privacy. Any VPN provider that wants to stay in the business needs to properly disclose and explain all the ways the service makes money and how they process user information.
This is where you also need to be wary of free privacy services. No matter how good a free privacy service is, it can’t do business without generating revenue. In the vast majority of cases, you’ll find that free privacy services either sell your data or show advertisements to make up for the lack of a subscription-based model.
Why Do You Need a VPN?
You know the answers to the questions, “How does a VPN work?” and “What is a VPN?” The question now is, why do you want to hide your IP address or if you should hide your IP address?
If you want to subscribe to a VPN service to circumvent geo-restrictions, torrent files from the internet or just want to watch US Netflix then perhaps privacy isn’t a big issue for you. Although it should be. Privacy during torrenting and streaming is of utmost importance since you don’t want your government or internet provider to know what you’re doing.
What Does a VPN Hide?
A VPN hides essentially everything you want hidden. More specifically the answer to what does a VPN hide is the following:
- Your IP address. More specifically, your public IP address
- Your real location on a map
- Your sensitive or personal data
- Your web browsing history
- Information about your torrenting activities
- Your social media information
- Your shopping preferences
- Mobile phone activities
- Your YouTube sessions while in the office
- Websites you visit
- Other online activities
What Does a VPN Not Hide?
Anything you want to hide, you can successfully hide with a virtual private network. However, an ISP may be able to see the general web address of the sites that you visit even with your VPN service on.
For example, your ISP may know that you visited the New York Times website, but it may never know what articles you read. Generally speaking though, if your privacy service isn’t leaking there’s nothing to worry about.
Can You Be Tracked If You Use a VPN to Hide Your IP Address and Browsing History?
What is the VPN actually doing? It’s trying to hide your internet traffic from your ISP and other agencies.
Since a VPN gives you a new IP address with which you can access various websites and services on the web, you can’t be tracked when using a VPN.
Does a VPN Hide My Browsing History From the Router?
VPNs are designed to hide your data and browsing history from government agencies, hackers, and your ISP. They can even hide your information from your internet router. To do so, you’ll have to make sure you’ve properly configured your VPN service.
Does a VPN Make You Invisible to Snoopers?
For the most part, yes. However, if you’re using a VPN on your mobile device and haven’t disabled GPS or your SIM card then someone can locate you. Your internet service provider and the internet service provider at the coffee shop can still see your IP address.
Since websites collect so much information about you and record your browsing history, they can build a profile on you. So whether or not they have your real IP address, they have a pretty good idea of who you are and what you like.
Of course, using a privacy service is far better than not using one because at least you’re still anonymous and websites only know your habits rather than your real IP address and identity.