What is a VPN No-log Policy?
Many times when you scour through the features of a VPN, you would find proudly-seated among the many features, a “No-log Policy.” Seeing this recurring feature that many VPNs claim to have, you may start to wonder, “what is it, and why is it a necessity for me?” If online privacy is your priority, then you need a tested and true VPN that offers this policy. This article will explain what a No-log Policy is and why you must look-out for it.
What Does a VPN No-log Policy Mean?
People use VPNs to mask their IP addresses, reroute it through another server anywhere in the world, and surf the internet securely. VPNs can also help you to access the geo-restricted content on the internet. However, one paramount reason people use VPNs is to browse the internet without leaving digital footprints.
This is where a No-log Policy comes in. VPN logs are the data VPN service providers keep or store about your usage of their services. Such records could include the what, how, when, and where of your online activity. Since a VPN company keeps your data private from your ISPs by protecting your real IP address and replacing it with another, they surely should have access to your data logs, right? Wrong.
A No-log Policy enforces that VPN companies do not keep records of any of your data while you are connected to their servers. It is this privacy that people desire when they use VPNs.
Different Types of Logs VPNs Keep
Many VPNs generally advertise that they have a No-log Policy. However, this is a vague description because there are different types of user-logs a VPN service provider can keep. In reality, many VPNs store one or more of the logs mentioned below, even when they claim to operate under this policy. Therefore, it is vital to know these different logs to understand how a VPN’s No-log Policy may affect your data.
VPN logs can be broadly categorized into two.
1. Connection Logs
Connection logs refer to the technical details of your VPN connection. These details could include which server you’re connected to, bandwidth usage, the IP address the VPN service swaps with yours, and your usage frequency. They may collect this aggregately or individually. It can be dangerous if it is collected per individual because it can then be linked to Personally Identifiable Information (PII).
2. Usage Logs
These are the worst kind of logs to keep because they contain your PII. They include:
- IP Address Logs: When a VPN swaps your IP address with one from any of its servers, they have a tab on your real IP address. It isn’t good if your IP address is stored because IP logs can be easily tracked to a specific user or at least a definite area. Also, an IP address linked to a timestamp can connect internet activity to a particular user.
- Traffic Logs: Then, there are traffic logs that have your complete internet traffic, such as your browsing and download history, online purchases, and software usages.
Of these two logs, a VPN that keeps only connection logs is indeed better. However, the best VPNs are those that keep no records at all. This conclusion is because any data stored can eventually be released, sold, or stolen for criminal activities.
You should be able to find out the extent of your VPN’s No-log policy by checking their privacy policies and terms and conditions. Some VPNs keep logs for only 24 hours, while some keep them for more extended or indefinite periods.
Why Do VPNs Keep User Logs?
Some of the different reasons VPNs keep logs include:
- Data-Retention Laws: Where a VPN is located in a country with mandatory data-retention laws, the VPN service provider may have to follow these laws.
- To mine and sell your data: This is especially so with free VPNs. A free VPN means that the service provider isn’t making money directly from you. So, a cheap way of making such money is by selling your data to third parties.
- Bandwidth Caps: Some VPNs have bandwidth caps. This means that they will have to keep user logs to ensure that users don’t exceed their allocated bandwidth caps. Again, this is more common with free VPNs. Paid VPNs also do this where they have bandwidth caps during the free trial period.
VPNs also keep logs to ensure that users keep to the specified number of simultaneous connections on a single subscription plan. They may also want to know the number of users connected to a particular server, and it’s data load.
How a VPN’s Country Location Affects Its Logs Policy
Every VPN is subject to the data-retention laws of the country where it is located. Any international data-retention treaty/alliances to which such a state is a signatory will also apply to the VPN. Prominent amongst these alliances are the “Five-Eyes,” “Nine-Eyes,” and “14-Eyes” Alliances, which allow the state-parties to collect and share data surveillance on its citizens with each other.
The 5-Eyes countries include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The Nine-Eyes countries have the 5-Eyes countries, plus Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and Norway. Finally, the 14-Eyes countries have the 9-Eyes countries, and Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, and Spain. The most notorious of these are the 5-Eyes countries.
It is advisable to steer clear of VPNs that are based in these countries. You can be sure that they would log some form of your data, and that their acclaimed “No-Log Policy” may not be enough protection if their government ever requests for their user-data logs.
On the other hand, countries with data-friendly laws include Switzerland, Moldova, Panama, Romania, or the British Virgin Islands.
If you’re opposed to data-retention, then you should be careful to choose a VPN that not only promises a strict No-log Policy but has also delivered the same for years. You would find this article a useful guide to help you understand what a VPN No-log Policy means for you, and it will also help you choose a VPN with the safest logging policy to subscribe to.