With hundreds of VPN services available, the power of choice is undoubtedly in your hands but just how easy is it to decipher their Privacy Policies and ultimately what data they log and retain?
We aimed to find out.
Although most VPN services cost just a few US Dollars per month, the quality of service can vary greatly.
One of the most vital areas to consider is the logging policy of the VPN service.
Are they retaining data on when you connected or what you did, and if so for how long?
This is necessary information, but in our latest study, we found a massive 36% of VPN services had either “no information” or it “wasn't clear” which is a worrying statistic.
Are VPN services doing enough?
VPN services are no longer the product of elite business users connecting to their office securely.
They're now used by everyday users from teenagers, to grandparents and anyone in between.
With technical terms and a whole minefield of marketing-spiel littering VPN websites, we wanted to discover how easy it is for a regular non-technical user to get their head around logging policies.
Can a regular Joe or Josephine work out which providers to trust?
We set Carolina, our non-technical assistant the task of trying to figure out what details (if any) each VPN service logs.
Most important, her thoughts on how easy it was to 1) Locate and 2) Decipher this information as a regular user interested in protecting their privacy.
She set about researching 193 of the most well-known VPN services.
Each website was visited in turn to discover the logging policy of the service.
Unfortunately, the results aren't favourable with just under 36% of services failing to offer precise information or any information at all on what they log.
Of the 193 virtual private network services visited 1 in 5 services or 20% had no easily identifiable information on what they log. Virtually – no logging policy at all in the eyes of a regular user.
Just under 16% of services while having some visible policy were not clear enough on what they retain or for how long.
Thankfully, although there is a large percentage of VPN services whose information is lacking, there are plenty of services that are user-friendly for all abilities.
122 of 193 services tested or over 63% had information to identify what they logged.
This ranged from some information on logging to more in-depth detail. It included specifics such as “no logs” to how many days or hours logs are retained.
While these are positive results, there is still a long way to go before clear information is available across the board.
The results show that there is a considerable disparity between what on the surface look like supposedly similar services.
For users not interested in the technical workings of VPN services finding critical information such as their logging policies easily is vital.
We asked our assistant, Carolina to make a judgement call on how easy it was to locate the ‘Policies' section of each VPN service.
This being the area where you would expect to find information relating to logging policies.
Unfortunately, the numbers are sadly lacking in this department as it was discovered that at least 25% of policies sections were considered “not easy” to locate by an everyday user.
While it's pleasing to discover 75% were considered “easy” to locate, it still represents 1 in 4 VPN services letting down their potential users.
VPN use is on the increase and 20% of Brits alone are making use of them. This clearly includes swathes of users considered “computer novice” showing that the VPN industry as a whole has a lot more work to do in this regard.
For the regular internet user, the importance of protecting the privacy of what you do online is finally starting to break through.
No longer are VPN services reserved for the realms of those “in the know”.
With this influx of amateur privacy champions comes the potential for mistakes. From not understanding the technology to sadly signing up to services that are not providing the protection they claim to offer.
Our research shows that while more VPN services than not do offer clear information on their logging policies, there is still a worrying number who don't.
Only signing up for a VPN service is no longer sufficient, signing up for the right VPN service is.
However, with more options available the chances of getting this wrong for the computer novice are worryingly high.