Why You Should Be Carful When Choosing A VPN

Virtual Private Networks are a way to access the Internet in a more secure way. More and more people rely on VPNs to stay anonymous online, to avoid Internet censorship, access geo-restricted content and try to escape surveillance. In some cases, a protected access to the Internet can even be a matter of life or death, as with many activists and human rights defenders. For these reasons, it's important to know what a VPN can and can't protect you from. And it's also important to know that not all VPNs are equal, and that while they can enhance privacy, there's no real guarantee anonymity.

At the bottom of the page:  Interactive table with specs on 100+ services, to find the most suitable VPN for you.

All content of this page is released under CC BY-SA licence. So share, remix and reuse it as you want (under the proper attribution)!

In a popular Reddit thread, the user ThatOnePrivacyGuy shared a spreadsheet where he categorized more than 100 VPN services on the basis of their privacy and technical specs.

We decided to visualize this data to investigate which VPNs seem to offer more privacy and help you choose the one that suits you most. Thanks to Silk's new Google Spreadsheet integration, the data, and thus the visualizations, are always updated live with what's in the original spreadsheet. (The text isn't, that's why you may notice some small discrepancies with the visualizations, but we'll check them daily!)

Disclaimer: we don't take responsibility for the accuracy of the data and you should do your research before signing up for a VPN service! The data is compiled by ThatOnePrivacyGuy, and it seems that he welcomes the community's feedback and is ready to amend information if it's proven inaccurate. So ping him if you think you spot anything wrong!

VPN Services by Jurisdiction (Country Based In)

Page Title
Privacy - Activism: PGP Key Available
Privacy - Activism: Requires Personal Info
Privacy - Activism: Sponsors / Donates to EFF
Privacy - Activism: Warrant Canary
Privacy - Activism: Accepts Bitcoin
Privacy Logging : Traffic
Privacy - Logging : Bandwidth
Privacy - Logging : DNS
Privacy Logging : Ip Address
Privacy - Logging : # of Sessions
Privacy Logging : Timestamps
Privacy - Logging: # of Sessions
Privacy - Logging: DNS
Privacy - Jurisdiction: Based in (Country)
Privacy - Jurisdiction: "Fourteen Eyes" Country
Count
Privacy - Jurisdiction: Based in (Country)
AceVPNNoYesNoNoNoUSAYes1USA
AirVPNYesEmailNoNoYes1
AnonineNoEmailNoNoYesUKYes1UK
AnonymizerNoEmailNoNoNoUSAYes1USA
AstrillNoYesNoNoYesYesSeychellesNo1Seychelles
AzireVPNNoEmailNoYesYesNoNoSwedenYes1Sweden
BeeVPNNoEmailNoNoYesDenmarkYes1Denmark
BlackVPNYesEmailYesNoYesNoHong KongNo1Hong Kong
BlocklessNoEmailNoNoNoCanadaYes1Canada
BolehVPNYesYesNoYesYesMalaysiaNo1Malaysia
BoxpnNoEmailNoNoYesSeychellesNo1Seychelles
BTGuardNoEmailNoNoYesUSAYes1USA
BufferedNoEmailNoNoNoHungaryNo1Hungary
CactusVPNNoYesNoNoNoMoldovaNo1Moldova
CloudymousNoEmailNoNoNoMoldovaNo1Moldova
CryptoStormYesEmailNoNoYesIcelandNo1Iceland
CyberGhostNoNoNoNoYesRomaniaNo1Romania
EarthVPNNoNoNoNoYesNorthern CyprusNo1Northern Cyprus
ExpressVPNNoEmailYesNoYesYesBritish Virgin IslandsSee Note1British Virgin Islands
Faceless.MENoYesNoNoNoYesCyprusNo1Cyprus
FinchVPNNoEmailNoNoYesYesMalaysiaNo1Malaysia
FreedomeNoYesYesNoNoFinlandNo1Finland
FrootVPNNoEmailNoNoYesSwedenYes1Sweden
FrostVPNNoYesNoNoYesUSAYes1USA
GoTrustedNoYesNoNoNoUSAYes1USA
Hide.meNoEmailNoNoYesMalaysiaNo1Malaysia
HideIPVPNNoYesNoNoYesUSAYes1USA
HideMyAssNoEmailNoNoYesUKYes1UK
Hotspot ShieldNoYesNoNoYesSwitzerlandNo1Switzerland
IBVPNNoYesNoNoYesRomaniaNo1Romania
Integrity.stNoYesNoNoYesSwedenYes1Sweden
Internetz.meYesEmailNoNoYesGermanyYes1Germany
IPinatorNoYesNoNoNoUSAYes1USA
IPredatorYesEmailNoYesYesSwedenYes1Sweden
IPVanishNoEmailNoNoYesUSAYes1USA
IronsocketNoEmailNoNoYesHong KongNo1Hong Kong
IvacyNoYesNoNoYesYesHong KongNo1Hong Kong
IVPNYesEmailYesYesYesNoNoGibraltarSee Note1Gibraltar
KepardNoEmailNoNoNoMoldovaNo1Moldova
LeVPNNoEmailNoNoYesFranceYes1France
LibertyShieldNoYesNoNoYesUKYes1UK
LibertyVPNNoYesNoNoNoUSAYes1USA
LimeVPNNoYesNoNoYesHong KongNo1Hong Kong
LiquidVPNYesYesNoYesYesUSAYes1USA
LokunYesEmailNoYesYesYesIcelandNo1Iceland
MullvadYesNoNoNoYesSwedenYes1Sweden
My Expat NetworkNoYesNoNoNoUKYes1UK
MyPrivateNetworkNoEmailNoNoYesHong KongNo1Hong Kong
MyVPN.ProNoEmailNoNoNoUSAYes1USA
NEXTGenVPNYesEmailNoNoNoSeychellesNo1Seychelles
NolimitVPNNoEmailNoNoNoSingaporeNo1Singapore
NordVPNYesEmailNoNoYes1
NVPNNoYesNoNoYesBosniaNo1Bosnia
OctaneVPNNoEmailNoNoYesNevisNo1Nevis
OverPlayNoEmailNoNoNoUKYes1UK
oVPN.seNoEmailNoNoYesSwedenYes1Sweden
oVPN.toYesEmailNoNoYesMultipleYes1Multiple
Perfect PrivacyYesEmailNoNoYesSwitzerlandNo1Switzerland
Private Internet AccessNoEmailYesNoYesNoUSAYes1USA
PrivatePackets.ioNoEmailNoNoNoBritish Indian OceanSee Note1British Indian Ocean
PrivateVPNNoEmailNoNoYesSwedenYes1Sweden
Privatoria.netNoNoNoNoYesCzech RepublicNo1Czech Republic
ProXPNNoEmailNoYesYesNetherlandsYes1Netherlands
Proxy.shNoEmailNoYesYesSeychellesNo1Seychelles
PRQNoEmailNoNoNoSwedenYes1Sweden
PureVPNNoYesNoNoYesYesHong KongNo1Hong Kong
RA4W VPNNoEmailNoNoYesUSAYes1USA
RiseupVPNYesNoNoYesYesUSAYes1USA
SaferVPNNoEmailNoNoYesUSAYes1USA
SecureVPN.toNoNoNoNoYes1
SecurityKISSNoEmailNoNoNoIrelandNo1Ireland
Seed4meNoEmailNoNoYesTaiwanNo1Taiwan
ShadeYouNoEmailNoNoYesNetherlandsYes1Netherlands
SlickVPNNoEmailNoYesYesYesUSAYes1USA
Smart DNS ProxyNoYesNoNoNoSeychellesNo1Seychelles
SteganosNoYesNoNoNoGermanyYes1Germany
StrongVPNNoEmailNoNoNoUSAYes1USA
SurfEasyNoEmailNoNoNoCanadaYes1Canada
SwitchVPNNoNoNoNoYesIndiaNo1India
TigerVPNNoYesNoNoYesSlovakiaNo1Slovakia
TorguardNoEmailNoNoYesUSAYes1USA
TorrentPrivacyNoEmailNoNoNoSeychellesNo1Seychelles
Trust.ZoneNoEmailNoNoYesSeychellesNo1Seychelles
TunnelBearNoYesNoNoYesCanadaYes1Canada
TunnelrNoEmailNoNoYesUSAYes1USA
TVWhenAwayNoEmailNoNoNoUKYes1UK
Unblock-UsNoYesNoNoNoBarbadosSee Note1Barbados
UnlocatorNoYesNoNoNoDenmarkYes1Denmark
UnoTellyNoYesNoNoNoCanadaYes1Canada
UnspyableYesEmailNoNoYesUSAYes1USA
VikingVPNYesEmailYesYesYesUSAYes1USA
VPN LandNoYesNoNoNoCanadaYes1Canada
VPN ShieldNoEmailNoNoNo1
VPN UnlimitedNoEmailNoNoYesUSAYes1USA
VPN.acYesYesNoNoYesRomaniaNo1Romania
VPN.AsiaNoEmailNoNoYesBelizeNo1Belize
VPN.htYesEmailNoYesYesHong KongNo1Hong Kong
VPN.shNoYesNoNoNoUKYes1UK
VPN4AllNoYesNoNoYesNetherlandsYes1Netherlands
VPNAreaNoYesNoNoYesBulgariaNo1Bulgaria
VPNBaronNoYesNoNoYesYesRomaniaNo1Romania
VPNJackNoYesNoNoNoUSAYes1USA
VPNMeNoEmailNoNoYesUSAYes1USA
VPNSecureNoEmailNoYesYesAustraliaYes1Australia
VPNTunnelNoEmailNoNoYesUSAYes1USA
VyprVPNNoYesNoNoNoNoSwitzerlandNo1Switzerland
WASEL ProNoYesNoNoNoNetherlandsYes1Netherlands
WiTopiaNoYesNoNoNoYesUSAYes1USA
WorldVPNNoYesNoNoYesUKYes1UK
ZenmateNoEmailNoNoNoGermanyYes1Germany
ZoogTVNoYesNoNoNoUKYes1UK
ZPNNoEmailNoNoNoUAENo1UAE

Note: countries technically not part of the "Fourteen Eyes" group, but in practice they're part of British Oversea Territories / Commonwealth

The US is the country where most VPN services are based. Privacy-concerned experts recommend opting for non-US VPNs, because of the country's mass surveillance laws and programs (PRISM, Patriot Act, DMCA, SCA...).  For example, a US National Security Letter can force a VPN company to disclose any information it stores. And this could mean logs of your online behaviour, possibly linked to your personal information, if the VPN company's privacy policy mentions logging of such data. 

Of the 112 VPN services reviewed, more than half (55%) are based in "Fourteen Eyes" countries. Snowden's leaks revealed how these countries maintain a "special relationship" with the United States in terms of surveillance, collaborating in monitoring each other's citizen and sharing signal intelligence information. In short, this means that users' data can be shared beyond a country's jurisdiction. While VPNs may guarantee you more privacy, there's no guarantee of anonymity. Even if VPNs aren't directly logging online behaviour and personal information, IP addresses, timestamps and other metadata can reveal your identity.


Note: countries technically not part of the "Fourteen Eyes" group, but in practice they're part of British Oversea Territories / Commonwealth

Also consider that some VPN companies based in these "Fourteen Eyes" countries do log users' traffic (WiTopia and Unlocator), or IP adresses and timestamps (HideMYAss, AceVPN, Anonymizer, IPredator and SaferVPN), at least according to data by ThatOnePrivacyGuy.

While we cannot verify his data to the level of detail he provided, we went and looked at some of the privacy policies of these companies.

Ace VPN, for example, advertises clearly as a service offering "No logs. 100% Private & Anonymous". This very bold statement might however  be a bit problematic. Reading the fine print of their privacy policy, you notice that they aren't very clear about what they log or not. They vaguely report that "we do not spy on our users and we don't monitor their Internet usage", without a clear definition of what classifies as "spying" and "monitoring". Further, they also claim that "if we have reasonable grounds to suspect that an end user is involved in criminal
activities, we reserve the right to notify law enforcement agencies
". How they can do so in practice, while not logging users' data to the level of guaranteeing 100% anonymity, sounds confusing.


VPNs, filtered for based in a "Fourteen Eyes" country and logging timestamps/IP addresses


Finally, consider that other than logging user's details, many VPNs use proprietary APIs on their website. This is not directly a sign of how secure and private a VPN is, but it does tell something about the extent to which a certain company is independent. 



Find the most suitable VPN for you: Interactive table with specs on 100+ services

VPNs*

Filtered for: for not based in a "Fourteen Eyes" country, not logging traffic/timestamps/IP addresses, accepting Bitcoin and supporting Open VPN. Change the filters in accordance to what's relevant to you, or reset them to view the table with all VPN services reviewed

Notes

The following text is all directly quoted from ThatOnePrivacyGuy's spreadsheet

Note that these metrics are collected from the official websites and other reuptable sources. This section takes each company at their word. It's up to the user to decide who is trustworthy.

Bandwidth: Some services limit the bandwidth of the user. When a company's privacy policy explicitly states no bandwidth usage logging, you can be more sure they're serious and don't have an invisible, unadvertised cap.

Requires Personal Info: Personal Info includes things like First Name, Last Name, Phone Number, Address, etc. Email alone is considered better than a Yes, since it may or may not be tethered to an individuals identity.

Warrant Canary: Note that not all companies use effective warrant canaries. A "yes" in this field does not guarantee quality, only that they claim to have a system in place. Please research the details for yourself. Also note that there is some debate as to the effectiveness of a warrant canary between experts - as force can be used by governments to coerce companies into maintaining them.

Blocks SMTP: A "Some" in this field means that the companies' support team may be willing to whitelist your E-Mail providers SMTP server upon request. Another possibility is the company supports some workaround method.

Blocks P2P: Services marked as blocking "Some" P2P, usually only blocks it on servers dedicated for streaming. Other possibilities are that P2P user is throttled - or worse banned. The user is responsible for researching further based on their needs.

# of Proprietary API's Used on Website: This field is dervived from a urlquery scan of each service's website. Not all services are of equal concern (or even concern at all). This is a loose indication of how dependent on proprietary software a given company is.

Server SSL Rating: Run using Qualys SSL Labs - SSL Server Test Tool

# of Simultaneous Connections: A 10 in this field actually indicates no advertised limit for simultaneous connections. (Done this way for conditional formatting purposes only)

# of Servers: Note that some companies report physical server count, and some report potential virtual server count (to inflate the numbers). Do your own research on a case by case basis if this is an important metric for you.

Refund Window: Often, payments made by cash or bitcoin CANNOT be refunded. Users should research as needed.


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