The Effects of VPN Parent Company Locations on Your Privacy
A VPN is only as good as the country it is resident in. A VPN parent company’s location can be the single determination of whether a user goes along with the provider or not. This is because of the huge impact it has on the privacy and security of users. Considering that enhancing security is the foremost job of a VPN, anything that compromises such, including the laws of the parent company’s country, is taken seriously. In this article, we analyze how a VPN parent company’s location affects users’ privacy.
What is a VPN?
It might be important to start this discussion by examining what a VPN is and the job it does for a user. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a private network that creates a secure tunnel for your internet traffic. By this, it encrypts your network such that the data you transmit from your device will be impenetrable.
VPNs are increasingly popular these days because of the nature of the internet. Any person with the right expertise and tools can hack into your device, steal, manipulate or sell your data. Thus, simply logging into a public WiFi to check your account balance can open a back end for a hacker to clear off your account.
Beyond hackers and cybercriminals, a VPN also keeps you safe from your government and even Internet Service Provider (ISP). You stay impervious to hacks or any sort of manipulation every time you come online.
VPN providers abound, offering apps for not just laptops but also mobile devices of different models. The subscription offers of providers also vary, with some being quite expensive and others relatively affordable. In the next section, we will examine the other uses of a VPN before diving right into why a VPN company’s parent location is of optimum importance.
Benefits of a VPN
There are several reasons why you may want to consider using a VPN. Here are a few:
1. Enhanced Security
As stated earlier, the primary job of a VPN is to ensure that you stay protected always. It encrypts your network to prevent interruptions or interference. Thus, you can rest assured that you are completely safe even while using a shared/public network.
2. Bypassing Geo-blocks
A VPN aids you to bypass geo-blocks of various forms. For instance, if you are unable to stream your favorite show or music because it is not available in your current location, a VPN steps in to fix the situation. A VPN provider typically has servers in several locations. Connecting to a served in any location makes it appear as though you are physically in that location. Thus, to access geo-blocked content, you need only connect to a VPN server in a compatible country.
3. Secure File Sharing
If you have super-secret files you want to send over the internet, a VPN offers the right route to do so. With a VPN integrated into your service, no one will be aware of what you are sending or receiving online.
4. Safe Torrenting
Torrenting and peer-to-peer file sharing are increasingly popular these days. However, this activity is fraught with challenges of its own. A VPN, again, comes in handy here.
The Effects of VPN Parent Company Locations on Your Privacy
A VPN parent company’s location is important primarily because of privacy concerns. The VPN’s resident country’s privacy laws will determine the nature and extent of privacy protection the VPN can afford users. In this segment, we will look at the specific ways a VPN provider’s country importance can be manifested.
Affiliation with Mandatory Surveillance/Data-sharing Alliances
Generally, even though almost every country utilizes one form of surveillance or another, some are more stringent and even insidious than others. Various governments even dedicate organizations whose sole responsibility is intelligence gathering and spying on other countries’ citizens. This is usually clandestine and includes agencies such as the United States’s NSA (National Security Agency), the UK’s GCHQ ( Government Communications Headquarters), and Germany’s BND (German Intelligence Organization).
These are some of the most popular ones, but, as stated, most countries have their own intelligence agency carrying out similar functions. Within their core functions, they carry out activities such as electronic spying, wiretapping, and even email cloning. However, countries are, in principle, precluded from spying on their own citizens. Thus, they instead create an elaborate system where they can trade information between themselves. These sorts of alliances abound, but the most popular is the 14 eyes and 5 eyes networks.
The 5 eyes network originated as a post-World War II effort initiated by the United States and the United Kingdom. The idea was to spy on other countries, including Russia and Germany. Ostensibly, the idea is to forestall an occurrence of the circumstances that led to the war in the first place. However, with the changes that the internet has witnessed over the years, the countries in the network are focusing more on domestic intelligence.
The 5 countries that make up the alliance are Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US. These countries routinely share intelligence. There is an elaborate process of approval to sharing information. However, some countries, for instance, the United States, through the NSA, have been known to bypass these requirements, gaining unauthorized access to citizens’ data.
Officially known as the SIGINT Seniors of Europe, the 14 eyes network is an alliance that carries out basically the same functions as the 5 eyes network, the only difference is that Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Sweden form part of the network now.
Countries that are part of either the 5 eyes network or 14 eyes network are obligated to share intelligence with fellow members. That means that if a VPN company is located within their jurisdiction, the country can put pressure on them to give up the data of users. This is because a VPN ideally is supposed to prevent government agencies from having access to users’ data.
Furthermore, a user can even go a step further to pay for the VPN service using cryptocurrencies. Thus, they become virtually untraceable. Any country that is part of any of the data-sharing alliances or generally has unfriendly privacy laws will find a way to get around this.
Existence of Policies and State Laws
The country a VPN parent country is available in is also important because of the state’s laws and policies. Sometimes, the privacy-unfriendly states will go beyond requesting that VPN companies share data. They could themselves restrict the use of VPNs within their jurisdictions. Thus, first, they could make laws that penalize the use of VPNs. Anyone that violates it, either the company or an individual user, will be penalized. Hence, using a VPN within those countries can open a person up to liabilities.
In some cases also, they fashion systems that prevent VPNs from functioning at all. Thus, they monitor IP addresses, and once they notice any that is making use of a VPN, they block them. Thus, it would be a frustrating experience for users if the VPN of choice is located in such countries.
Testing the Strength of the No-Logs Policy
VPN companies typically employ several privacy policies. This is the chief reason users trust them. Basically, although a VPN encrypts your traffic to keep you safe from outsiders, the VPN service can access this data. Thus, from the information, you supply during your sign up (which could include your name, address, email details, etc.) to what you do while on the service, all are open to the provider. In a sense, it is like swapping one monitoring agency for another.
However, VPNs, especially top-tier ones, employ a phenomenon known as a no-logs policy. Here, they assure users that they do not retain any aspect of their online activities. Thus, they wipe down each user’s digital footprint at the end of each session.
However, the VPN company’s country plays a vital role in determining if the no-logs policy actually works. The United States, for instance, has subpoenaed the companies in its jurisdiction several times. In some cases, they succeed, but in some others, they don’t. However, it is usually ideal to confirm that first, the provider in question maintains a strict no-logs policy and further that the country it is located in has a favorable stance towards privacy.
It goes without saying that the location of a VPN service is very important. Hence, while checking out the security and privacy features of a provider, consider its location too. This is because the former, to a large extent, depends on the latter.