What makes a VPN good? There are several factors, including speed, number of servers, the ability to circumnavigate Geo restrictions, and price. However, none of these are as important as logging policies.
Most virtual private networks claim that they do not keep logs. However, upon close examination, their no-logging policies often do not stand up to scrutiny. It is important for you to know whether the VPN you are using is recording your activity online. You will need to prove this before you trust them with your browsing activity.
Verifying A No-Logging Policy On A VPN
According to the Pew Research Center report more than 91% of Americans believe that they have lost control over how their personal information is collected. Many of them have turned to VPN solutions to protect their personal data and privacy. A no-logging policy is the first thing to look for when choosing a VPN service that won’t collect your online activity.
Alex Williams from Hosting Data UK tested over 20 VPN solutions that claim they’re not logging user data, and found that some of them were dishonest about it – some of them even provided the data they were collecting to the FBI. Alex’s research was confirmed by PCMag who reported that logged data was unprotected, “Furthermore, we could clearly see the username and password we used to register our account, stored in the logs as cleartext.”
One of the most important factors that affects VPN security is the country where it’s legally based, ’cause it must abide by its laws. Laws can undermine data security and encryption, and many countries are hostile jurisdictions for privacy. The only way to find out if a particular VPN provider is logging user data is to test it, so it’s advised to stick with verified VPN services.
However, it’s challenging to verify a no-logging policy. This is because you cannot prove that someone is not doing something from the outside. The only way for you to know if a VPN is logging in your activity is to see their activities from their vantage point.
Some VPNs invest in external auditors or even go to the point of allowing journalists to examine the inside of their networks to see if they are living up to their no-logging policy. This is a good start. However, auditors and journalists can be fooled. They might scrutinize the VPN providers’ internal servers and not find anything. This does not mean that there is nothing to find.
This is the heart of the issue some people have with VPNs. Regardless of the number of audits performed and regardless of all the promises of transparency, users need to trust that the VPN company they are using is true to its word.
The reality of the situation is that VPN providers need to log some of your activity. Without logging some of your activity, it is impossible for them to provide or maintain their service.
This might not bother you if you are using your VPN because you are out of the country and want to keep up-to-date with your favorite sports team or the latest movie on Netflix. However, if you are in a repressive country and you are using a VPN to get around some blocks the government has in place to prevent you from accessing or sharing information, then you should feel concerned about how your VPN is using your information and what information they are logging.
What Are Connection Logs? And Why Should You Care?
A VPN provider might keep connection logs. This could include anonymized logs that make it possible for a VPN provider to know how many customers are using specific servers. Keeping this log is understandable because it allows the VPN provider to monitor traffic and make adjustments in their infrastructure so that their network continues to run smoothly.
Most VPN providers put a limit on the number of connections per account. The only way to do this is to monitor how many devices are connected per account.
A VPN provider that keeps connection logs would likely keep the IP address you are connecting from. They may record when you connect to the VPN and for how long you use the service. They likely monitor the VPN server you are connecting to and will keep whatever information you have agreed to allow them to keep. This information is used to evaluate their systems if there is a crash.
In many countries, VPN providers are required by law to store connection logs for a set amount of time. They may make these logs available to law enforcement upon request.
While the information mentioned above may seem innocuous, all of it can identify you. This information can be used to determine where you are connecting from and other pertinent information about your identity. If this bothers you, you may want to look for a VPN like ExpressVPN. This VPN provider promises not to keep connection logs. There have been several high-profile cases that prove the truthfulness of this claim.
Should You Worry About Usage Logs?
Absolutely. Usage logs are more worrisome than connection logs. When a VPN company says that it has a no-logging policy, this is specifically what it is talking about.
A usage log records your IP address and every single website you visit. Some VPNs have gotten caught secretly keeping these types of logs. From a PR standpoint, this is a nightmare. All of their customers are at risk of having their most private information displayed to the world.
If an organization keeps usage logs, they will know the websites you visited, the information that you have sent over email, the apps you use, the content of messages, and your physical location. It is understandable that this is concerning for many. In fact, this is exactly what people want to avoid when getting a VPN.
Online Anonymity Is A Myth
For every ExpressVPN out there, there are several companies that are less than truthful about their logging policies. When their servers are seized by law enforcement, the truth comes out.
Obviously, it is a positive thing when law enforcement can use technology to protect the public from child predators, stalkers, and organized crime. But the problem is with VPN providers that lie to their customers about the services they are offering. While it could lead to catching a bad person in the United States, the same lack of transparency and honesty by VPN providers could lead to a political activist in China or Iran getting arrested because they trusted the wrong VPN.
Whether or not you use a VPN, you need to understand that there is no such thing as complete anonymity on the Internet. Good VPN providers are honest and transparent with their logging policies. VPN providers based in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain can never offer the same level of privacy as those based in countries that are not under legislation requiring them to store logging information.
If you take your privacy seriously, you need to do your research. Learn about the different VPNs out there. Scrutinize their logging policies. Your data and your browsing habits reveal a lot about you. Keep them safe by choosing a VPN that has logging policies that align with your needs.
If you are interested in even more technology-related articles and information from us here at Bit Rebels, then we have a lot to choose from.