Virtual private networks are designed to help protect your privacy and boost anonymity when you surf the net. However, not all of them completely shield your identity.
The primary reasons why people use VPNs is to ensure that they maintain their privacy and increase anonymity when accessing the internet. While many VPN service providers claim to offer such services, they usually don’t protect users completely. Thus, people can still potentially be tracked when they use VPNs.
VPN protects your privacy and increases your security
Virtual private networks are services that provide people with security and privacy as they use the internet. They are designed to help protect the identity of users when they browse the web.
When using a VPN, it is nearly impossible for anyone bar the VPN service provider to trace your location. The traffic from your device is encrypted when using a VPN, thus, making it impossible for even your internet service provider (ISP) to track your online activity. Your ISP sees a stream of encrypted data moving between your device and the VPN server.
As a user, the VPN fetches a file for you when you request for it. The data is encrypted before being sent to you. An ISP or any prying eyes will not know what you are doing because they only see the IP address of the VPN server you are connected to.
VPN doesn’t guarantee anonymity
The fact that you use a VPN doesn’t guarantee your privacy. While VPNs ensure that your web activities are not tracked when connecting between your computer and a website, the website you are accessing or VPN you are using could be violating your privacy.
A VPN cannot protect a user from a website that set a tracking cookie which reveals information about you to other sources. A virtual private network is also powerless against a website that records information about you and the products you are interested in. There are many ways that your privacy can be compromised even if you use a VPN.
Also, most of the VPN service providers currently available promise users complete anonymity when they surf the web. However, this is very hard to keep up, especially in certain situations. The VPN providers utilize advanced tools to enhance users’ security, and some of those tools gain access to your confidential data.
There are some VPNs who adopt a no-logging policy. However, some of them can’t operate a server without keeping logs because the absence of records makes it hard for them to prevent abuse, tackle DNS issues, and troubleshoot connections.
While it is hard for others to track you when you use a VPN, the VPN service provider could trace you. In some cases, the VPN providers hand over user information data to the government if a certain individual has become a person of interest to the authorities.
An example of this is IPVanish, which is based in the United States. While the company provides privacy and some anonymity to its users, it still operates under a set of regulations it must abide by.
In addition to the above, VPNs using third-party servers find it nearly impossible to operate without putting a logging system in place. Although the VPNs might not create the logs themselves, the third-party server providers do.
Are VPNs truly untraceable?
Not all VPNs provide users with the complete anonymity they need. Using free VPNs can be risky as they sometimes leak the IP address and thus the location of a user, making them very vulnerable.
Also, those that use third-party servers are also susceptible because while they may not keep logs, the server provider could decide to do so. VPNs that do not have a no-logging policy, especially those in countries like the United States do keep a record of your credentials and could hand it over to the government upon demand. Thus, you can still be tracked when you use such types of VPNs.
However, some VPN service providers offer users with the excellent privacy they require. NordVPN is a great example. The Panama-based company has a strict no-logging policy which is backed by the law of the country. Thus, the company is not compelled to give away user information and therefore, implements its no-logging policy. Blokt has an excellent in-depth review of NordVPN which you can read here.
You can be tracked when using a free VPN as they tend to leak your IP address on occasion. Also, a VPN provider that doesn’t have a no-log policy can easily hand over your data to authorities when the situation arises, thus, making it hard to fully remain anonymous. However, VPNs that adopt a no-log policy such as NordVPN are better placed to ensure your privacy is maintained.
Tim M. Hill helped bring Digital-Overload from a weekly newsletter to a full-fledged news site by creating a new website and branding. He continues to assist in keeping the site responsive and well organized for the readers. As a writer to Digital-Overload, Tim mainly covers mobile news and gadgets.