The point of a Virtual Private Network is to allow you to browse your favorite websites in an incognito mode. This means that other people (and corporations and governments) won’t be able to track your online activity but there is someone who can.
Namely, the VPN provider keeps a log of your online activity and although this log is not permanently stored on their servers, it still means that they have access to your sensitive browsing history. One might think that you need to find a trustworthy VPN provider or is it so? Well, if you play your cards right and locate a no-log VPN; you won’t have to rely on the supposed honesty of providers.
Why is your data logged
We’ve mentioned how VPN providers store your data but not all providers store the same type of data. Namely, the range of this data is from connection times, IP addresses, times and dates, IP addresses, all the way to simply measuring how many minutes you have been connected. The latter is one of the most basic tracking options that somewhat helps the provider to charge their service.
Apart from their own user statistics, which is not much different from a clothes store keeping count of how many sweaters they’ve sold, there is another reason your online activity is logged. In most cases, when you sign a contract with the desired provider, you commit yourself against using the VPN for illegal activities such as various types of Internet fraud and scams.
The provider’s personnel will immediately spot such fraudulent behaviors thanks to the logs they keep and warn you that you’re in breach of contract. Furthermore, your (illegal) Internet activity has the potential to damage their network so they will react out of pure selfishness if that’s what we can call it. Anyhow, it is way better if there were a few logs as possible, don’t you agree?
Security and privacy are equally important
One of the best ways to determine which VPN provider to choose based on the volume of logging data they collect is the issues of security and privacy. At times, one will take precedence over the other but in general, both issues are equally important.
Connecting to the Internet using a public access network is risky unless you have a VPN. It acts as a firewall against possible security issues and theft or data. Although the people who are connected through the same tethering point won’t be able to get to your file, the provider still has this possibility. In theory, they could sniff traffic themselves and be the security problem you are trying to avoid.
If you are lucky enough that your data doesn’t get compromised, then there is the issue of privacy. This issue is looser for the VPN who can always be tempted to sell your data to a third party, even it was a predatory marketing agency. In order not to get bamboozled by the VPN provider, you’ll need to do a bit of research before you can rest assured that your data shared through a VPN is 100% safe.
Doing a bit of research
Other than looking at the final price, feel free to google the provider’s name with the word “logging” after it. The search, rudimentary as it may seem, will yield excellent results, showing both the privacy terms of the provider, as well as user reviews that you’ll find highly useful.
With a bit of luck, you’ll find VPN providers who trust their clients enough only to keep access logs that are used for billing purposes exclusively. Another favorable business practice is the deletion of logs every day or week, which is also not considered a bad hosting service.
Talk to the provider
Instead of merely googling a potential or current provider, don’t shy from tête-à-tête communication. Even you live far away, then write an e-mail or pick up the phone to call them; whatever the case, engage in meaningful communication with them.
Ask them openly about their logging and data retention policy so it would be clear from day one what happens to your data shared via a VPN. Naturally, reaching out to the provider is something you want to do if you’re a premium user since you want to assure that you’re getting good value for your money.
The issue of geolocation
Out of sight, out of mind is not an adage that really applies to the geolocation of VPN providers and their servers. Most users are fooled by the provider’s presumably location on the world; thinking that local, state or national laws don’t apply to them.
The truth could not be more different, as Interpol, “the world police,” deals with cybercrime on a daily basis. There isn’t a place on the globe with Internet access that the long arm of the law cannot reach you so make sure your online activity is in accordance with your country’s legislation, however things might not be as simple as that.
Just because a VPN provider is registered abroad, it doesn’t mean you have a license to engage in illegal activities online. In the modern world, you cannot use geolocation to be exempt from the law. Instead of browsing providers based on their geolocation, it is much wiser to focus on their respective logging policies and data collection practices.
In cyberspace, trust is a tricky subject. You can trust your VRN and the provider but the fact remains that they are collecting data. Yes, your browsing history might stay on their servers for as short as 24 hours but they still have access to it. It is wiser not to trust but opt for a no-log VPN.