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Pricing and plan features
As we noted above, Privacy.i.o is a very bare-bones service, with little in the way of features except the choice between using the PPTP or OpenVPN protocols (or both). As we explain in some detail in this article, you should only really consider PPTP if your mobile device doesn’t support OpenVPN (as both Android and iOS now do).
Only one simultaneous connection is permitted, so if you want to connect both your laptop/desktop and mobile device then you will need the PPTP + OpenVPN plan (which counts as two plans). This is however somewhat pricy, and undercuts one of Privacy.i.o’s strong points – that it is fairly cheap.
With prices for the OpenVPN service starting at $8 per month Privacy.i.o represents good value, although there are other VPN providers out there who offer more fully featured services for an even lower price. One thing we do like is the ability to purchase the service for just one day, which while not as groovy as a free trial, does allow you to try the service out for a minimal outlay, and means that it can be used to address specific short term needs (or example when you have to use a public WiFi hotspot).
With servers based in Sweden and the Netherlands, Privacy.i.o has no problem with customers using P2P programs such as BitTorrent. These are the only locations available at the moment, and you are randomly connected to one of them (i.e. you cannot choose).
As their name might suggest, privacy is undoubtedly Privacy.i.o’s strong point, and it promises to ‘not log any activity while users are connected to our service’, with the only information kept on file being ‘username, password and email. Nothing else!’ The website also talks a great deal about the company’s belief in the importance of free speech and privacy.
Unfortunately however, ‘at present’ Privacy.i.o only accepts payment through PayPal, which while not a huge problem for most users, does mean that ‘true anonymity’ (or a close approximation thereof) is impossible.
The level of encryption used is not mentioned on the website, so unless they get back to our enquiry and correct us, we will assume it is the default 128-bit Blowfish. As we explain in this article, we don’t have any problem with this, although the recent NSA revelations make the more paranoid part side of us wonder whether now is maybe the time to consider higher encryption levels.
The website and customer support
The website is attractive and cleanly laid out, although as befits the rest of the service, the actual information on offer covers everything necessary, but no more. There is a FAQ which covers most things you’ll need to know, clearly laid out installation guides with screen shots, and a brief mission statement. Customer support is via email only.
Signing up couldn’t be simpler, and as promised the only information asked is Username, Password and Email. Of course, Privacy.i.o can discover more information about you through your PayPal payment, but it promises not to store such details.
The Windows client
Privacy.i.o does not have its own VPN software, and makes use of the generic open source OpenVPN client. This is fine, and works perfectly well, but it means that you have to do without some of the funky (and useful) bells and whistles found on some competitors custom made clients (such as DNS leak protection, server load information, internet kill switch etc.).
1. Download and install the OpenVPN client.
2. Download the configuration files, and unzip them into the OpenVPN config folder.
3. Start OpenVPN GUI (double-click icon on the Desktop), right-click it’s icon in the far left of the task bar, and select ‘Connect’.
4. The icon will turn green to show that you are connected to the VPN.
5. You can visit a site such as Where Is My IP Address to verify that everything is working correctly.
As with Windows, generic open source VPN clients are used to handle OpenVPN connections in OSX (Tunnelblick) and Linux (default Linux client), and behave very much like OpenVPN for Windows.
iOS devices are supported with the necessary PPTP settings (which should also work for all Android and Windows Mobile devices), and while no OpenVPN support is provided for mobile devices, the basic OpenVPN config files should work with OpenVPN for Android (requires Android version 4.0) and up) or OpenVPN Connect for iOS.
Using a 20 meg UK broadband connection, we put the OpenVPN service through its paces using Speedtest.net.
As you can see, there is a bit of a slowdown when using the VPN service, but nothing major, and the higher Ping score seems to be the result of the extra distance traveled by the data, rather than the fault of Privacy.i.o.
One thing we did notice however is that it sometimes took a couple of minutes for the client to successfully connect to a VPN server. Not a big deal, but mildly annoying.
- No logs
- Fairly cheap
- Quite fast
We weren’t so sure about
- Very no frills
- Only accepts payment via PayPal (i.e. no anonymous Bitcoin)
- Client takes a while to connect
Overall we feel quite positive about Privacy.i.o. It does what it says on the tin in a workmanlike way, and it keeps no logs (which always endears a VPN service to us). The only real problem is that there are other services out there who offer many more features and greater anonymity, at a lower price point. Still, we think that Privacy.i.o have got off to a good start, and look forward to seeing how the service develops in the future.