Sadly, the fact of the matter is that most VPN providers have a total lack of transparency when it comes to a user’s privacy, which is arguably the very thing they have signed up to a VPN service for.
We then look at the best VPN providers who do not keep logs as well as why they are the best VPN providers on the market.
What Is Logging And What Kind Of Data Is Kept In Logs?
Logging is when a VPN provider records data from a customer using its VPN service. There are three types of VPN logs that a provider can keep. They are:
1. Usage Logs
A usage log is a record of online activity. More specifically, if your VPN provider maintains a usage log it means that it keeps a track of your browsing history, your IP addresses and your connection times. This is the type of log that no VPN subscriber wants a VPN provider to keep, so if you see that your VPN provider does so, it is perhaps best to reconsider changing to another, like one of our recommendations below. The VPN providers most likely to keep these logs are free VPN apps.
2. Connection Logs
Connection logs may sound like a way that a VPN provider can keep tabs on its users, but actually, they are sometimes required. This is because the data that a VPN provider collates for such a log can be used to keep their service functioning well and at a good level. They are therefore key to maintaining a VPN that is optimized for its users at all times.
Basic connection logs are not as scary as they sound as the information kept within them will never be sensitive to a user. In fact, it’s pretty generic mundane stuff. The thing to be wary of is if your VPN provider is not up front about keeping these types of records and simply makes false claims that they are a no logs service.
3. No Logs
A no logs policy does sound like the ideal, but in reality, as connections logs are used to optimize services, a company that does not keep any records at all can actually be providing a pretty substandard VPN subscription. That being said, without any customer connection data, a VPN provider cannot implement restrictions on the number of device connections or bandwidth, which are often things that customers want an unlimited amount of.
What Can VPN Companies Do With Your Data?
There are many reasons that companies want to keep records of customer data and, to be fair, not all of them are bad. Already briefly mentioned is the fact that connection logs can actually help a company provide a better service as they have the data they need to resolve problems. However, some will make us worry about a VPN provider’s approach to its customers’ privacy and anonymity.
1. Limiting device connections
This is perhaps the number one reason that even the best VPN providers at least keep connection logs. This is because, without it, they are unable to enforce device connection limitations. Companies need to set a limit on the number of devices that can be connected to a VPN server under one subscription as, without this limit, their ability to make revenue is severely diminished. Without limiting device connections, one subscription can be used by any number of people. The result is that VPN companies won’t sell as many subscription packages.
2. Limiting bandwidth
This reason for keeping a connection log is pretty similar in thought to limiting device connection. While not all companies set bandwidths or set limits on the amount of data one subscription package is allowed each month, it is definitely one way that VPN providers can increase their revenue. This is because should a user reach their data limit, they will need to purchase more. All that being said, we think the best VPN providers never cap bandwidth.
3. Logging with rental servers
This is another way that VPN providers use their customers’ data to help increase their revenue. This is because some providers make use of virtual rental servers which are far cheaper to run than other dedicated servers. However, those retinal servers will often be the ones maintain logs of server activity. In fact, some countries actually require rental servers to maintain logs of a user connections and data usage. These logs are then given to local authorities and law enforcement agencies – should they ask for it.
4. National spying agencies
In a similar vein, some spying agencies demand by law to be given some private customer data. This is often under the guise or proviso that the information kept can help keep countries safe in the long term. While the intention of this is obviously well meant, some potential customers may be wary of what may happen should their government turn into a Big Brother state.
5. Bettering the service
As briefly mentioned before, many VPN providers keep connection logs simply so that they can better their service as well as sort customer problems when asked. Granted, it is still possible for a VPN provider to run a service that is capable and efficient without keeping logs for troubleshooting purposes, but they certainly help.
What Makes A Good VPN Provider
Other than a no logs policy, there are a number of features that a VPN provider needs to offer to be a reputable and effective service. They are:
- Watertight security – Just because you are using a VPN provider that prides itself on a no logs policy, does not mean that their security or encryption methods that they have in place are top of the range. We like to see 256 Bit AES encryption as this is widely viewed as the toughest encryption method available and is even used by the US government to protect their data.
- Quick Connections – For a VPN to be worthwhile using, it has to have quick connections so that users do not suffer any buffering or freezing during a browsing session.
- Helpful customer service – Even the best VPN providers will have a few issues for a handful of customers. As such, a helpful customer service team that can answer queries quickly and efficiently is always needed – whether the company keeps logs or not. Without such a department, you could be paying good money for a service that never works, and never will work either.
- Large and wide server network – One of the main reasons that people sign up to a VPN provider is to unblock geo-restricted content that requires a different IP address location to be accessed. For as much of this content on the internet to be unlocked as possible, a VPN provider needs to have a large and wide network so that customers can be assured of a con.
The Best VPNs With A No Logs Policy
There are the following advantages of using ExpressVPN:
- Lighting quick connection – Without doubt, ExpressVPN’s connection times are the best on the market. They are so quick that users barely notice any difference between a connection with no VPN and a connection with a VPN established with an ExpressVPN server. The result is trouble free browsing each and every time.
- Stringent encryption techniques – While there are other methods available, it is great to see that ExpressVPN uses our preferred method of encrypting customer data. This means they employ the use of 256 bit AES encryption which essentially means that any data that is transmitted through one of its servers is completely unreadable to prying eyes.
- Vast network – ExpressVPN invests heavily in its hardware which has had the result that it has one of the largest server networks on the market. In fact, at the time of writing, ExpressVPN has over 1700 servers. Additionally, those servers are dotted around the globe in almost 100 countries so that customers will always be able to find a server with an IP address they need.
- Special deal – Get 3 months free wtih 49% savings on their annual subscription plan!
For more information on ExpressVPN features, read our extensive ExpressVPN review.
“NordVPN guarantees a strict no-logs policy for NordVPN services, meaning that your activities using NordVPN Services are provided by automated technical process, are not monitored, recorded, logged, stored or passed to any third party. We do not store connection time stamps, session information, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses or other data. From the moment a NordVPN.com user turns on the NordVPN.com software, their Internet data becomes encrypted. Any online traffic coming from user’s device is no longer visible to ISP, third-party snoopers or cyber criminals. Further, NordVPN have a strict no logs policy when it comes to seeing user activity online: NordVPN is based in Panama, which does not require data storage.”
We also love that NordVPN provides the following:
- Multi-layer security – NordVPN uses many different types of protocols, and double tunneling techniques to ensure that its customer anonymity and privacy is maintained at all times.
- Kill switch – NordVPN’s inclusion of a kill switch within its subscription package is great to see as it means that should a connection with its server drop, the VPN software also cuts the internet connection entirely keeping the customers safe at all times from prying eyes.
For more information on NordVPN features, read our extensive NordVPN review.
Surfshark is a popular and capable VPN provider that offers exceptional value for money through a subscription service that can be adapted to a person’s needs. In terms of a logging policy, Surfshark has the same approach as ExpressVPN. It keeps tabs on user email addresses and billing information – but just enough so that they can resolve any problems with the service should they arise. They do not keep information regarding:
- Incoming and outgoing IP addresses
- Browsing, downloading or purchasing history;
- VPN servers you use;
- Used bandwidth;
- Session information;
- Connection timestamps;
- Network traffic
Other than this admirable approach to logging and, of course, its cheap price, we rate it for its:
- Vast network – Despite being so cheap, Surfshark still has a huge amount of servers in over 50 countries around the globe. In fact, it has over 500 servers which means that it can stand up to more expensive VPN providers out there.
- Unlimited amount of device connections – This is an incredibly unusual feature for reasons described above. However, Surfshark allows users to connect all their devices under one, single subscription.
For more information on Surfshark features, read our extensive Surfshark review.
The Bottom Line
With more and more governments trying to up the ante when it comes to their ability to spy on its citizens while online, a VPN is a good way of staying anonymous during any browsing sessions. While a government may have good intentions, many people will quite rightly still see this spying as a mass invasion of their privacy. By using a VPN during any connection to the internet, users will stay anonymous at all times – but only if that VPN is provided by a company that does not maintain logs.
It is vital therefore to choose a VPN service that is provided by a company that is adamant on helping its customers stay anonymous when online. Any of the three VPN companies above do just that, with ExpressVPN the out and out leader in terms of other features that it also provides.