VPN Logging: No Logs vs Metadata Logs vs Browsing Logs
Let’s first consider the following comparison of various types of logs:
No Logs VPN
No Privacy Issues
- Data N/A
Full Traffic Logs
Invasion of Privacy
Real IP address 188.8.131.52
Connected to US server Jan 3, 2015, 1:13 PM
Assigned IP address 184.108.40.206
⁃ etc etc etc....
Disconnected from US server Jan 3, 2015, 10:45 PM
Total bandwidth: 10GB
Essentially, the above means that the most secure VPN provider is a No Logs company that keeps absolutely no personally identifiable information about their users. No Logs VPN providers cannot match an assigned IP address with the real IP address and do not monitor users’ browsing habits. A list of the best no logs VPN providers is provided in the Most Secure VPN guide.
VPN providers that keep Metadata Logs (Server Connection Logs), related to the date and time when the connection to the server was established and an IP address that was used, also do not monitor their users’ online activity. This is the reason they tend to call themselves “No Logs” VPN providers. But since these providers know your real IP address and which VPN IP address you were assigned, they can decide to cooperate with the authorities when you break the law. So once you get the attention of the authorities, a specific law enforcement agency uses an IP address involved in a specific illegal activity and subpoenas a VPN provider to reveal the real IP address. This is different from logging the websites that you visit and spying, though, because a VPN provider doesn’t know what you do online when you use their network.
Let’s say John with a real IP 220.127.116.11 was assigned an IP address 18.104.22.168. When John accesses various websites, these websites store certain information about this user, including an IP address, OS, browser and screen resolution. When 22.214.171.124 is tagged by the authorities for, lets say, selling guns on the darknet, they reach out to a VPN provider with a court order to disclose the real info about this user, which in the case of Metadata Logging is an IP address. The provider can then match 126.96.36.199 to a real user 188.8.131.52. and this is how John gets caught.
However, when a Shared IP was used, there were multiple users who were connected to the same server. So law enforcement needs to employ additional techniques to determine an exact individual.
While we do not feel that criminal activity should be endorsed and enabled by the means of encryption tools, it’s important to note that metadata logging is not suitable for whistleblowers, certain journalists or other illegal activities. Keeping server connection logs, however, in no way invades user privacy and is, therefore, an excellent choice to protect yourself from mass surveillance. When you’re using encryption tools, nobody can intercept and steal your data, and ISPs no longer have access to your browsing history.
Full Traffic Logging (Browsing Activities), on the other hand, is unacceptable and critically invades our right to privacy! As evident from the table provided, full traffic logs contain highly personal sensitive information about browsing habits of the users and can be used to build personal profiles. Mandatory Data Retention laws in the UK, Europe and Australia force ISPs and telecom companies to store full browsing logs. Based on the privacy policies of the VPN providers we reviewed, none of them practice full logging. However, we’d like to note that some reserve the right to temporarily turn on logging for investigation purposes when they determine their network is being abused. Since they do not clarify exactly what constitutes abuse and do not specify what information they start logging in such cases, we feel that such companies should fall under the Full Traffic Logging VPN category and should be used with caution.
The following are the best no logging VPN providers.
MONTHLY PRICE: 11.95 USD
ANNUAL PRICE: 3.99 USD/mo
MONTHLY PRICE: 12.95 USD
ANNUAL PRICE: 6.67 USD/mo
ExpressVPN has one of the largest and fastest infrastructures with over 2,000 servers in 94 countries. Ultra fast ExpressVPN network supports gigabit Internet connection which makes it a perfect choice for ultra high speed streaming and torrenting. Besides, ExpressVPN aligns itself as one of the Internet’s leading advocates for net neutrality, for a democratic and open internet. Considering they have a no logs policy, accept Bitcoin and are located on the Caribbean Island, they are a great choice for privacy oriented customers who want to protect their data from surveillance, bypass censorship and access restricted materials. To read a full ExpressVPN review click HERE.
MONTHLY PRICE: 4.99 USD
ANNUAL PRICE: 2.49 USD/mo [promocode]
Offering over 3,000 servers in 50 countries, all mainstream protocols and 5 simultaneous connections, TorGuard rightfully earned its place as a top VPN provider. No logs TorGuard offers a reliable, fast and secure VPN connection. Their SOCKS5 proxy is an excellent feature for high speed multimedia streaming and torrenting as it integrates with the main BitTorrent applications. TorGuard native apps offer advanced security features like Kill Switch to ensure no data leaks, even when the connection drops, and port forwarding to custom TCP/UDP ports. TorGuard’s StealthVPN protocol is an effective tool to bypass strict firewalls and VPN blocking. To read a full TorGuard review click HERE.
MONTHLY PRICE: 6.95 USD
ANNUAL PRICE: 2.91 USD/mo
PIA is a leading no logs VPN provider with a massive amount of servers (over 3,000) that deliver excellent speeds and a very reliable service. PIA VPN does a great job protecting users’ privacy from surveillance, cyber attacks and other online threats. PIA offers an easy to install VPN app for all devices with advanced features that secure VPN connection from unexpected data leaks. For faster streaming and torrenting PIA software offers switching between different connection types and ports. To read a full PIA review click HERE.
MONTHLY PRICE: 9.95 USD
ANNUAL PRICE: 4.99 USD/mo
Based in Malaysia, Hide.me is one the most secure and fastest VPN providers offering ultra fast VPN servers that provide gigabit Internet connection. Hide.Me VPN is extremely reliable and very fast which makes it a perfect choice for security oriented users who would like to enjoy uninterrupted streaming and browsing experience. Hide.Me offers incredibly convenient custom apps for all devices with a number of advanced security features for maximum protection. Hide.me is a no logs company that has custom software with a built-in protection against IP and data leaks, obfuscation tools to bypass strict firewalls, dynamic TCP/UDP port-forwarding (UPnP) and SOCKS5 proxy that is especially useful for torrenting. To read a full Hide.me review click HERE.
MONTHLY PRICE: 12.99 Euro
ANNUAL PRICE: 9.99 Euro/mo
Perfect Privacy is an ultra fast (gigabit servers) VPN provider with a heavy focus on advanced online security. Perfect Privacy integrated firewall enforces all traffic to be sent through secure tunnels thereby protecting their users from all known IP leaks when the app is running, it even prevents unencrypted online access after OS reboot. In addition, Perfect Privacy offers a unique Multi-Hop VPN feature that allows cascading over up to 4 OpenVPN servers at the same time along with SOCKS5 and Squid proxies. Perfect Privacy can bypass strict firewalls by obfuscating OpenVPN to look like normal HTTPS traffic with OpenVPN over SSH feature. For additional firewall penetration Perfect Privacy allows 5 custom port forwardings or 3 default random ports. What really separates them, though, is their ability to resolve .onion (TOR) addresses without the need for the Tor Browser. To read a full Perfect Privacy review click HERE.
MONTHLY PRICE: 10.99 USD
ANNUAL PRICE: 2.75 USD/mo
Romania based CyberGhost, with it’s advanced security features such as Anti-Fingerprinting, DNS leak and tracking protection, NAT firewall, ad-blocker, anti-malware, antivirus, and kill switch features that guard your connection from unexpected interruptions, tracking and online threats, combined with no logs policy and Bitcoin as one of the many payment options, is a perfect choice for users who need a top notch online security. To read a full CyberGhost review click HERE.