If anonymity is important to you, then you may decide to use a VPN. However, not all VPNs are built equally when it comes to anonymity.
If your VPN keeps logs of your browsing activity, it is basically no more anonymous than if you simply browsed the web without a VPN.
Top Picks: No Logging VPN Providers
Want to know why you should care about logging?
Then please read on...
Why Should I Care About Logging?
When you browse the internet, your ISP can see everything that you do. As well as this, it keeps detailed logs of what you do and when you do it. There are obvious issues to this from a privacy point of view as it means that anyone who gets hold of this information will have a detailed overview of your browsing habits.
When people use a VPN, one of the reasons they use it for is to stop their ISP from seeing what they are browsing and also to stop these logs from being made. However, the problem is that a VPN, much like an ISP, could also see and log your browsing data.
If your VPN keeps logs, then all it would take was a court order to hand over the data for someone to see detailed info of your browsing. Realistically, there would be very little difference between what someone would see from an ISP’s logs and what they would see from a VPN’s logs.
From a privacy perspective, this would essentially negate the reason to use a VPN (although you would still get other security and region unblocking benefits). Because of this, if privacy is important to you, it is essential to make sure that you choose a VPN that does not keep logs about your browsing.
How Does A VPN Protect My Internet Usage?
As mentioned in the section above, a VPN can stop your ISP from seeing the websites you are browsing and therefore stop them from keeping logs about your data.
A VPN does this by sending all your data through an encrypted tunnel to the VPN server. When your data goes through this tunnel your ISP will only be able to see the fact that your data is encrypted. It won’t be able to see what the data is or where it is going.
As well as your ISP, it is possible that different organisations could be monitoring certain websites. The NSA controversy from 2014 showed that governments have the capability to collect huge of amounts of your browsing data without you ever knowing. In this instance, even people who weren’t doing anything wrong or illegal were still having their data collected.
As well as this, movie distributors often try to chase people down who are suspected of breaking copyright law by using torrents. A VPN will protect you here because anyone who is checking a website will only be able to see the IP address of the VPN, not your home IP address.
This brings us onto why it is so important that your VPN does not log your data. When the government or agency sees the IP address of the VPN server, they could theoretically ask (or demand, depending on the laws of the country) that your VPN hands over the logs they have kept of their users browsing. Even something as simple as logging an IP address at a certain time could allow people to match the server IP address with who was using the specific server at that time.
Types Of Logging
There are two main types of logs that your VPN could be making. These are usage logs and connection logs. They both provide different levels of detail about your browsing. Of the two types of logs, usage logs are the more concerning.
Usage logs are the most detailed type of log a VPN could make. It could contain details such as the websites you access, files you download, and any software that you used. Any VPN that keeps these logs could potentially be forced to hand them over to a third party and as such, all your privacy would be gone.
If you want the privacy benefits of a VPN, it is essential that your VPN does not keep usage logs. Luckily, it should not be hard to find a VPN that doesn’t keep these logs.
Connection logs are much less severe than usage logs, although ideally, your VPN won’t even keep these. Connection logs contain lots of data about your connection, without actually showing the details of what you connected to.
Things that are often included in connection logs can be:
- When you connected to the VPN server
- How long you connected to the VPN server for
- How often you connect to the VPN server
- The amount of data you send/receive when connected
For most people, this won’t really be a problem. However, this type of information could be used to track your browsing back to you if the agency searching is particularly determined.
Many VPNs out there do claim that they don’t keep any logs at all. This means that even if someone demands they hand over information, they literally won’t have any information to hand over. Choosing a VPN that doesn’t keep logs is obviously the best way to increase your privacy online.
What About My VPN Account Details?
One piece of information that many VPN providers do have about you is your account information. If you have a recurring subscription with a VPN paid for by your card, your VPN will have some pretty detailed information about your name, address, etc.
Of course, there are far more anonymous ways to pay for a VPN available. Many VPNs accept payment methods such as Bitcoin or gift cards from major brands. If you sign up to a VPN like this there should be nothing that can relate the payment method to you personally.
It is worth keeping in mind thought that even if you use one of these payment methods, you will still need often need to provide an email address. If this is a problem you could think about signing up to an anonymous email address before signing up the VPN.
For the average user, this would be unnecessary, however. Most VPNs will have some detail about you whether it is account information, an email address or even some logs and this is generally going to be ok.
Best VPNs With No Logs
- No usage or connection logs
- Accepts various payment methods including Bitcoin
- Servers in 60+ countries, various VPN protocols
IPVanish is a solid VPN that promises not to keep any logs. For those interested in privacy you can sign up using only Bitcoins and an email address meaning that you can sign up fairly anonymously.
They provide everything you would normally associate with a quality VPN including OpenVPN and L2TP/IPSec protocols, servers in over 60 countries, strong 256-bit encryption, and even the ability to use P2P.
The VPN is slightly more expensive than some other options, although only by a couple of dollars a month. They also offer a 7-day money back guarantee so if you decide that this VPN doesn’t work as expected, it is easy to move onto another one.
- Double VPN encryption available for added security
- They do not store any logs
- 3-day free trial available
NordVPN is a good VPN that stands out due to its double data encryption. This means that all your data will pass through two VPN servers before reaching the internet, potentially increasing security.
They offer a variety of payment methods including Bitcoin and, like the above VPN, only require an email address and your payment when you sign up for its service.
Their app is super easy to use, you simply have to select a server and connect. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t have advanced features. These include an automatic Kill Switch to ensure you never connect without the VPN and a DNS leak resolver.
- Servers available in 94 countries
- No usage logs and very minimal connection logs
- More expensive than similar VPNs
ExpressVPN is a good VPN that offers servers in loads of countries meaning that accessing geo-restricted content shouldn’t be a problem.
They offer strong encryption, OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, SSTP, and PPTP protocols and apps for pretty much all operating systems. ExpressVPN do keep some connection logs but they say this is only to improve their service and that these logs could never be used to identify a user.
However, their cheapest option is quite expensive. As well as this, they only allow three simultaneous connections, compared with the five that most companies offer.
You can pay by Bitcoin and you simply need to provide an email address to sign up to the service meaning the option for increased anonymity is there. As well as this there is a 30 day money back guarantee which goes up to 45 days if you sign up for a whole year.
Private Internet Access
- Pay using gift cards for increased anonymity
- Very low prices compared to the above VPNs
- Software is a little bare, although still easy to use
Private Internet Access is a great VPN whose price absolutely smashes other VPNs out of the water.
They have a number of security features including its ability to block ads, trackers, and malware, as well as the OpenVPN protocol, and strong encryption.
In terms of anonymity, they don’t take logs, allow you to pay via Bitcoin or even gift cards and provide multiple VPN gateways.
The only real downside is that while very usable, the software looks quite bare bones and the number of server locations is quite low compared to other VPNs on this list.
- Free plan with up to 2GB data
- No logging (although they do keep logs of the amount of data you use)
- Full VPN is a little pricey
Hide.me is a good VPN that offers a unique way to pay for the VPN. There are basically three versions, a free VPN with a 2GB data limit and only three servers, a mid-range VPN with a 30GB data limit, and a full VPN that is unlimited.
While the mid-range VPN will be enough for many users, the full unlimited VPN is actually quite expensive and doesn’t have as many servers as some of the other VPNs on the list.
They don’t keep logs, except for how much data you send using the VPN and you can sign up using Bitcoin and an email address for all the plans.
Basically, while the free or mid-range VPN may be enough for some people, the full VPN is really quite expensive.
Ensuring that your VPN does not keep logs is pretty much essential if privacy is one of the main reasons that you use a VPN. While there will often be some data kept in regards to your account, it is your web data that is most important and it is this that you want to make sure isn’t being kept.
The VPNs on the list come with a range of price points and features but all have one thing in common. They don’t keep logs and as such will be best placed to guard your privacy and keep your browsing anonymous.
Hopefully, you have found this article helpful. Please leave a comment below if you have any questions.