One of the primary reasons to get a VPN is for privacy. However, some VPN providers focus on other benefits, such as unblocking geo-restricted content, and fall a bit short when it comes to what’s most important: privacy. For this reason, finding the best VPN for privacy can be tricky.
When privacy is a concern, you have to be careful what VPN you choose. Some VPNs provide an excellent server network, fast speeds, and top-notch unblocking capabilities but may log more of your personal information than service focused on privacy should be collecting. The bottom line is, to find the best VPN for privacy, you’re going to have to do a little research—which is why we’re here. Let’s get to it!
The Best VPN for Privacy
When it comes to privacy, NordVPN is one of the best. It uses 256-AES encryption over a reliable OpenVPN protocol. Most importantly, NordVPN keeps no log whatsoever. Plus, it’s based out of Panama, a country with no data retention laws.
What’s more, NordVPN has protection against DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leaks. Plus, all of its apps feature an effective kill switch to automatically cut off your internet connection if your VPN connection drops suddenly.
Properties of a Good VPN for Privacy
As we’ve mentioned, not all VPN providers offer the best VPN for privacy. Some are more concerned with other features. Others even go as far as to log your personal data and sell it, usually through a subsidiary marketing company.
This problem is especially prevalent with free VPN and a serious red flag. After all, if a company is going to log and sell your data, why should they care if there are things like DNS leaks or if your IP address is exposed every time the connection drops?
For these reasons, it’s vital to ensure VPN and privacy come together, as they should, with whichever company you choose. However, just like every VPN provider seems to have a different definition of “no logging,” so too do they have different ideas about what privacy means. Let’s take a look at the necessary properties for the best VPN privacy.
1. Strong Server Network
VPNs encrypt your data by routing it through a tunnel between your device and the VPN’s web server. In this way, you begin using the IP address of the VPN’s web server, which makes it appear as if you are the geographical location of the server and hides your actual IP address to make it impossible to track your activity.
To do this effectively, you’re going to need a VPN with a strong server network. The best VPN for privacy will have a healthy spread of servers over a wide range of countries worldwide. A robust server network is not only essential for performance (as too few servers can lead to congestion issues), but it’s also a privacy issue, enabling you to use the internet as if you were anywhere in the world.
Of course, the best VPN for privacy should offer plenty of options. The more servers available at each location, the faster the speeds are likely to be, and the fewer chances you’ll have of dropping a connection at the wrong time.
2. Secure Protocols
To perform the data encryption necessary to create a secure VPN tunnel, there are various protocols used to keep your data private. While it’s always good to have a choice of protocols, the one to look out for is OpenVPN.
OpenVPN is the most modern and secure of the protocols in use by mainstream VPN providers. However, there are several other reliable protocols, including:
Any of these protocols will reliably perform the data encryption necessary for a private VPN connection. Generally speaking, the best privacy VPN will offer a choice of protocols. Nevertheless, if it doesn’t, you’re probably okay as long as the protocol being used is OpenVPN, even better if you toggle between the two flavors of OpenVPN (UDP and TCP).
Of course, there are other protocols available, too, including older and less-secure ones like PPTP. In a pinch, it doesn’t hurt to have access to these. After all, you may decide you don’t need strong encryption for a quick task, especially considering that stronger encryption can slow your connection down.
3. Powerful Encryption
Although encryption is related to having secure protocols, it’s worth noting that the key to internet privacy with any VPN is encryption. Encryption makes it impossible for anyone to monitor your internet traffic, including your ISP. Plus, it safeguards your sensitive information from hackers, too, like login credentials and credit card numbers.
The best VPN for privacy should be able to offer powerful encryption. For true VPN internet privacy, the best VPN providers offer some sort of AES encryption. That is, either AES-128 or AES-256. Either one of these will work, as they’re both powerful and have never been broken.
AES encryption is used by Microsoft, Apple, and the NSA. It would take a supercomputer one billion billion years to crack even AES-128, let alone AES-256. If your VPN offers this type of encryption, the best privacy VPNs do, then you’re in good shape.
3. Anonymous DNS Servers
Domain Name System (DNS) servers are what direct traffic to users. They do this by connecting URLs with your IP address. As such, every website you go to and everything you click on is logged along with your IP address. This process of translating IP addresses into website names and vice versa is typically performed by the user’s ISP.
However, with a VPN, DNS requests are sent through the VPN, thereby hiding your IP address and preserving your privacy. The problem is that if your VPN is using DNS translators that are not secure, such as Google DNS, your data is still at risk.
For this reason, any decent VPN provider should be using an anonymous DNS to ensure your privacy is protected. There are DNS services specifically designed for anonymity, such as DNSWatch and FreeDNS, that your VPN should be using.
Another thing to watch out for is DNS leaks. These leaks happen when DNS requests are sent directly to your ISP without first running through the VPN. If this happens, your ISP (and whoever else might be watching) can see the websites you’ve accessed despite the VPN.
Needless to say, DNS leaks defeat the whole purpose of a VPN, so it’s crucial to select a VPN provider that offers DNS leak protection. While almost every VPN should be using anonymous DNS servers, be careful, especially as it’s been known to happen with split tunneling VPN connections.
4. Effective Kill Switch
When a VPN service becomes overloaded or there are other connectivity issues, your VPN connection can be dropped. When this happens, if you continue to use the internet before reconnecting, your real IP address can be exposed. Some VPNs don’t even warn you if this happens, so you might continue as usual for quite some time before you realize you’re no longer protected.
To prevent this, most VPNs offer a kill switch designed to automatically cut off internet access to your device when the VPN connection drops. In this way, if you lose your connection to the VPN, which happens even on the best server networks in the world, your online traffic is safe.
If you don’t have a lot of experience with VPNs, a kill switch might sound a bit harsh. However, it’s one of the most valuable features a VPN can have, especially one that protects your privacy.
Let’s face it, no matter what you do or how good your VPN is, there will be times when your connection drops unexpectedly. A server could become overloaded, or the distance between you and the server may be too far to maintain a connection. If this happens, you’ll be glad you have a kill switch in place.
All in all, if a VPN does not have an effective kill switch, you might want to think about looking elsewhere. A kill switch is an excellent peace-of-mind feature to ensure your personal information is never in danger.
5. No-Logging Policy
When you start looking at VPN providers, you’ll see that most of them have a “no-logging” policy. However, once you delve into the fine print, you’ll find that what they mean by this varies. For instance, many VPNs claim to have this policy but still keep session logs with dates and times connected to your account.
The truth is, very few VPNs actually log zero data concerning your VPN activity. Most log some sort of information, although it’s usually data that can’t be traced back to you personally. Still, any information that a VPN provider keeps can potentially be turned over to authorities should it be requested.
The point is that you should be wary of a VPN’s no-logging policy and delve deeper into what information the VPN logs and for how long such data is saved. Basically, you need to ensure there isn’t a catch to a VPN’s logging policy that makes you uncomfortable, at least if the end goal is privacy.
6. Router Installation Support (Or Unlimited Simultaneous Device Connections)
Although this feature is not absolutely necessary, it’s definitely nice to have. The idea is that instead of installing your VPN on every individual device you own, you install it on your router for your home network. In this way, your entire wifi connection at home is routed through the VPN, providing you with a private network.
This feature is a fantastic way to ensure privacy for every device in your home, including all phones and tablets using the network. The problem is, only certain VPNs support this feature, and you need a router that is compatible with it.
Of course, there’s little need to install a VPN on your router if the VPN allows you to install it on an unlimited number of devices or if you only need it to cover a few devices. If this is the case, you can use it to protect what needs protecting and move on. In general, most VPN providers enable around five or six simultaneous device connections.
7. Additional Security Features
If privacy is your end goal, there are additional features to look for that can offer increased protection. Some of these features are add-ons that can be used in addition to already top-notch VPNs.
For example, some VPNs use RAM-only servers to ensure your privacy. When this is done, you know your data is never saved because RAM memory is dumped automatically every time the server reboots.
Another feature you can get is StealthVPN, which disguises your VPN traffic as regular internet traffic. On top of that, if you’re looking for further encryption, look for a VPN offering a Multihop server (also called cascaded VPNs). A Multihop server routers your connection through more than one VPN server to make tracking your identity and internet traffic impossible.
The Difference Between Anonymity and Privacy
It’s vital to note that there is a difference between anonymity and privacy. Interestingly, while we’re mostly discussing privacy in this article, a VPN has the potential to offer both privacy and anonymity, to a point.
First, anonymity is when people know what you’re doing but not who you are. It means to be nameless and faceless. People can see your actions, but they are separate from your identity. Anonymity is good for producing content that you want others to see but without it being attributed to you.
Second, privacy is when people know who you are but not what you’re doing. It’s about confidentiality and staying out of the public eye. If you send an encrypted message to a friend, your friend can see it and know who it comes from, but the message itself is private from everyone else.
With a VPN, your privacy and anonymity are protected because everything you view on the internet is encrypted. However, once you post a message, your identity is revealed, and you are no longer anonymous, assuming, of course, that you don’t take further precautions to disguise your identity.
For instance, if you wanted to post a political message but were afraid of it coming back to bite you, you need anonymity. In this way, you are staying separate from your identity while making public messages. On the other hand, if you use a cloud storage service, you might wish to reveal your identity, but the encrypted files remain private.
A VPN can provide both but is designed to offer privacy. Your VPN does not disguise your identity but does mask your internet activity. Of course, if you sign up for a VPN using credentials that cannot be tied back to you, your anonymity is also protected.
VPN Companies Privacy Activism
Some leading VPN companies have made it a mission to improve the VPN market with the goal of weeding out those VPN providers that do not meet a certain standard and protect privacy. The VPN Trust Initiative (VTI) was formed to protect consumer safety and privacy online.
The idea is to establish a standard of principles around which VPN providers should operate. Many of the best VPNs for privacy are guided by these principles.
Why Free VPNs are Never Reliable for Privacy
Free VPNs can be tempting to provide some data protection without incurring the cost. However, you should be very careful when it comes to free VPNs because there’s a good chance they’re not offering as much privacy protection as you think and could even be making it worse.
The reason you should avoid free VPNs is that many of them use encryption tools that don’t fully protect your identity. Even worse, many of them log your data and sell it to third-party companies. In fact, that’s the goal of many free VPNs, to record your data and then sell it later, typically through a subsidiary company.
Many free VPNs also leak your IP address. It’s generally easy for hackers to track your activity, and free VPNs can expose you to other privacy threats. You also are likely to be bombarded with aggressive ads and targeted with malware and ransomware.
At the end of the day, it helps to remember that it takes resources and money to run an efficient and effective VPN. For this reason, you should be wary of anyone offering this service for free.
The only exception to this rule is the free version of ProtonVPN. ProtonVPN offers a restricted VPN service with unlimited bandwidth that’s safe to use and will protect your privacy. They do this in the hopes that once you try it, you will upgrade to the paid version later.
The Best VPN for Privacy
One of the defining features of any VPN is privacy. That is, at least it should be. Unfortunately, some VPNs fall short, for instance, claiming to have no-logging policies when they actually log more information than they have any right to.
The best VPN for privacy is one that offers strong encryption with no DNS leaks, has a strict no-logging policy, an effective kill switch, and a strong server network. The good news is that there are still many VPNs to choose from that offer a secure and private experience. Next, let’s look at the best privacy VPNs.
One of the most private VPN providers in the world is Mullvad. Not only is Mullvad private, but it offers peace of mind. Plus, with its security features in place, you’ll be free to use the internet with complete safety and privacy however you choose to use it.
Mullvad has a server network of 311 servers in 38 countries using the OpenVPN protocol and 60 servers in 27 different countries using the WireGuard protocol. It’s based out of Sweden and foregoes a live-chat option while providing an anonymous buying process that does not involve an email.
On top of that, Mullvad has a strict no-logging policy. And Mullvad goes even further by denoting each account only by a serial number. This, combined with no login information, makes Mullvad the most private and anonymous VPN around.
Overall, Mullvad has strong tunneling protocols (OpenVPN and Wireguard), 256-AES encryption, and absolutely no DNS or any other kind of leaks reported. Mullvad also has an effective kill switch and faster than average speeds. You can also torrent on all of Mullvad’s servers.
The only issue you may have is with unblocking geo-restricted content. Some of Mullvad’s servers unblock Netflix but not all of them, and so you may have issues with other streaming services as well. That said, if privacy is your number one concern, Mullvad is a fantastic choice.
IVPN is a smaller VPN provider, but one that’s focused on privacy. It’s a simple to install and easy to use VPN that never logs your data, other than your username, password, and payment information, which is standard for most VPNs and can be circumvented by using an email address that can’t be tied to you and paying for the service with an anonymous source (like Bitcoin).
Overall, IVPN is committed to privacy and transparency, with its policies carefully laid out and readable. It’s server network is not the largest (42 servers across 32 countries), but it uses WireGuard technology and Multihop servers to safeguard your data by routing it through more than one VPN connection.
IVPN is based out of Gibraltar, and the company makes it clear that it only responds to requests from its jurisdiction country. That said, IVPN doesn’t log any data that would make any legal requests worthwhile.
Some notable security features that IVPN has are standard like an ad-blocker and a kill switch for all of its apps. What’s more, its multihop function works on all of its servers. The bottom line is that IVPN is a simple VPN that stands out as a top choice for privacy for its use of the WireGuard protocol and multihop servers.
ProtonVPN has made a name for itself with its free VPN offering. However, it also happens to be a VPN focused on privacy, with several features that make it worth consideration. That said, with the free option, you get access to three server locations (Netherlands, Japan, and the US), and there are restrictions.
If you’re looking for true privacy, you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version. You’ll then get access to ProtonVPN’s obfuscated SecureCore endpoints that are designed to conceal the fact that you are using a VPN. This feature is a great start for privacy and enables you to use it in places where VPNs are restricted.
ProtonVPN is clear about its no-logging policy. Although there has never been an independent audit to verify this fact, ProtonVPN is transparent about its policies. It once was ordered to hand data over to the authorities by a Swiss court but had no information to provide. This is a good sign.
One thing that we should note is that ProtonVPN’s Basic plan is inexpensive but does not provide access to its obfuscated SecureCore endpoints, so it’s not going to be the most private. For a private VPN, you’ll need to sign up for the Visionary tier, which is designed for those who want to support the company’s privacy-oriented stance.
VyprVPN is excellent for maintaining your privacy. It has a lot of top-notch security features, including an automatic kill switch to protect your IP address from exposure and a NAT firewall to protect your devices from hackers, botnets, and malware. Alongside that, it offers 256-AES encryption.
What makes VyprVPN one of the best for privacy is that it has a no-log policy that truly means it logs zero information. This policy has also been verified by independent auditor Leviathan Security. On top of that, VyprVPN is based out of Switzerland, which is a privacy-friendly country.
One of VyprVPN’s best security features is what it calls the “Chameleon” protocol. This feature scrambles your OpenVPN metadata so that you can bypass surveillance and censorship by making your VPN undetectable. The Chameleon protocol is also great for unblocking Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and others.
VyprVPN allows you up to five device connections on a single license. It also has 24/7 live chat support, and you are free to torrent anonymously on all of its servers. It’s compatible with macOS, iOS, Android, Windows, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera and can be installed on routers.
You’ll see NordVPN in a lot of ‘best of’ lists, so it’s no surprise to see it here as one of the leading VPN providers when it comes to privacy. For starters, NordVPN is an excellent VPN, with over 5,600 servers in 60 different countries. It has top-notch speeds and plenty of reliable and private connections.
For streaming, NordVPN unblocks the most popular streaming services, including Netflix (US and UK), BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu. NordVPN also has dedicated P2P servers for torrenting.
As for privacy, NordVPN boasts 256-AES encryption over the reliable OpenVPN protocol. It also offers protection against DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leaks. What’s more, all of its apps (except Android, for some reason) feature a kill switch to automatically cut off your internet connection if your VPN connection drops suddenly.
That said, what’s even more impressive about NordVPN is that it offers complete privacy by keeping no logs whatsoever. Where most VPNs log some limited data, NordVPN keeps nothing. It has even been audited independently to verify its no-logging policy.
NordVPN is based out of Panama, a country that does not have any data retention laws, which ensures privacy. Plus, the VPN provider offers many other features that are fantastic for privacy. You can opt for a double VPN, where your traffic is routed through two VPN servers and obfuscated servers, which are great for evading government-implemented VPN traffic restrictions (such as in China).
You also get automatic wifi protection that makes sure you’re protected by the VPN when connecting to unsecured networks away from home. NordVPN can also be installed on your router. All in all, NordVPN is an excellent choice, with apps for macOS, Windows, Linus, Android, and iOS. And there’s live-chat support available 24/7.
Another top-notch VPN for privacy is ExpressVPN. This VPN has fast speeds for streaming and PSP activity. What’s more, it unblocks geo-restricted content from Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, and more.
Express VPN has its home base in the British Virgin Islands, which has strong privacy laws. Like other VPNs on this list, it used top-of-the-line 256-AES encryption and the reliable OpenVPN protocol. It also has HMAC authentication and what ExpressVPN calls a “Network Lock,” which is a kill switch.
ExpressVPN does keep minimal logs, including server locations and time stamps, but no information that can identify its users. Plus, it uses its own DNS servers, so your internet requests can never be viewed by a third party, and it has built-in protection against DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leaks.
On top of that, ExpressVPN has several features put in place to safeguard your privacy further. For instance, it runs on RAM-only servers, so your data is completely wiped every time a server reboots. It even has an onion site for accessing the Tor browser (which you can pay for in bitcoin to maintain your anonymity) and allows torrenting on all servers.
Although ExpressVPN is a little more expensive than some VPN providers, it has a lot going for it when it comes to privacy. It has apps for macOS, Windows, Linus, Android, and iOS and even offers router support. What’s more, it works in China.
For a VPN that offers the privacy you need at a budget-friendly price, Surfshark is the way to go. Although Surfshark is a fairly new VPN provider, it has over 3,200 servers in 65 countries. It’s an excellent choice for unblocking geo-restricted content on services like Netflix (US and UK), Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer.
Surfshark also allows you to connect to an unlimited number of devices with a single plan. It has apps for macOS and Windows, as well as mobile apps for iOS and Android.
For security, Surfshark features 256-AES encryption, forward secrecy, and leak protection against DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC. It also has an effective kill switch for all of its apps to prevent your IP address from being exposed.
Surfshark is based out of the British Virgin Islands and does not keep any logs whatsoever. Some additional security features include CleanWeb, which is an ad-blocker, and Whitelister, which is a secure and effective split tunneling option.
Overall, Surfshark is a high-performing VPN that is effective at protecting your privacy. It has lots of security features and has even been reported to work in China.
Although every VPN should protect your privacy, the truth is that not all VPNs go to the lengths needed to prevent your data from being tracked and recorded. In fact, some VPNs (particularly free ones) even go as far as to log your data and sell it through third-party subsidiary companies.
Other VPNs may be more concerned with other features, such as unblocking geo-restricted content, than with privacy. These VPNs sometimes log more information than they should or have DNS leaks because they lose sight of the fact that a VPN is a privacy tool.
For this reason, there is a movement known as the VPN Trust Initiative (VTI) that’s actively working to put standards in place for VPN providers. These standards are designed to ensure consumers are well informed and know that VPNs are safe, and will protect their privacy.
That said, most of the best VPNs for privacy are also some of the best VPNs overall. They offer fast speeds, excellent server networks, and work well for unblocking geographically restricted streaming content (Netflix, etc.).
At the end of the day, the best VPN for privacy is one with a strict no-logging policy, with a strong network, secure protocols, powerful encryption, an effective kill switch, and additional features, like RAM-only or Multitop servers.