There’s a saying, “You often get what you pay for.” But what if you’re not paying for it? Well, in that case, you are most likely the product. That’s how it is, and if you tend to use free services, especially on the internet, there’s an extremely high chance that you’re actually trading your personal data in exchange of those services.

Companies always try to find some deceptive practices to market and grow their brands, and people often fall for it. And it’s not unusual at all, not even in the VPN industry, contradicting our belief that VPN actually protects our identity. Yes, you read it right! Your VPN service provider might be keeping a tab on your personal information, including your IP address, location, bandwidth data, and connection timestamps, and even selling them.

 

VPN services log user data

The Best VPN recently investigated over 100 of the biggest global VPN services, and find out that many are antithetical to the stated claims of their privacy policy. At least 26 VPN service providers collect three or more important log files that could contain personal and identifying information, the investigation revealed. People use a VPN to keep information like their IP address and location private, and the service providers actually end up storing, and selling them. That’s terrifying to say the least.

 

 

Some of the biggest names in the industry, including PureVPN, HideMyAss!, Hotspot Shield, and VyprVPN all collect more data than they claim to. PureVPN’s privacy policy, for instance, explicitly states that it keeps no logs on users.

“We do not monitor user activity nor do we keep any logs. We therefore have no record of your activities such as which software you used, which websites you visited, what content you downloaded, which apps you used, etc. after you connected to any of our servers.”

However, the same non-existent logs were instrumental in the arrest of 24-year-old Ryan Lin last year, after PureVPN turned them over to FBI agents. And PureVPN is still at it. The privacy policy still states it keeps no logs, but it does, and many others too.

You can see the full list of the 26 VPN service providers that log three or more user information here.

 

VPN services sell user data

While the paid VPN services mostly tend only to keep a tab on your activities, the free ones may cause even bigger damage to you. Not only it is highly unlikely that free VPN service providers actually protect you, but there’s also a huge possibility that your data is being harvested and sold to third-parties.

Like I said at the beginning, if you’re not paying for a product, you’re most likely the product.

 

What can I do?

Now that new GDPR laws have come into effect, more attention is being given on to how companies use user data for marketing purposes. So do your homework before trusting a third-party service with your personal data. The battle for online privacy is a tough one, and you need to make wise choices. If you’re willing to put in some technical effort, I suggest you to setup your own free VPN, or find an open-source VPN like OpenVPN, FreeLan, and SoftEther.

You can set up your own free VPN using Algo or Streisand. Check-out this tutorial by Lifehacker.