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5 Best No Logs VPNs 2018

VPNs are a flexible tool that are useful for many things, from watching US Netflix from abroad to defeating state censorship and protecting you from WiFi hackers.

VPN no log

Many people, however, use a VPN primarily to provide privacy while online, regardless of what they use the technology for on a day-to-day basis.

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BestVPN.com Score 9.9 out of 10
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BestVPN.com Score 9.8 out of 10
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BestVPN.com Score 9.5 out of 10
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BestVPN.com Score 9.4 out of 10
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If you value privacy, then you want a no logs VPN. Unfortunately, this term is much abused by VPN services and is often misunderstood by customers. In this article, we examine what providers really mean when they say they 'keep no logs', and discuss why and when such claims can be trusted.

But first, let’s take a look at our pick of no logs VPNs!

The best no log VPNs

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1. ExpressVPN

BestVPN.com Score 9.9 out of 10
Editor's Choice

Although this top-tier VPN provider keeps some minimal anonymous usage statistics, these do not include a timestamp or IP address. To all practical intents and purposes, this makes ExpressVPN a no-logs VPN. And a very good one it is too!

Its headline act is its ridiculously fast performance, but fantastic 24/7 customer support and a generous 30-day, no-quibble, money-back guarantee certainly sweeten the deal!

For those concerned with privacy, robust encryption keeps hackers at bay and what is in effect a no logging policy means that it will have nothing useful handover, even should it be forced to.

Servers located in a whopping 94 countries around the world are also a big draw if you’re seeking speed, privacy, and access to geographically restricted content. Users in China will appreciate ExpressVPN’s special “stealth” servers located in Hong Kong, and users everywhere will appreciate the new free Smart Domain Name System (DNS) service (included with all accounts) that keeps streaming media like Netflix running smoothly on a VPN.

Top it all off with an easy-to-use desktop software for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux (command line only), simple apps for Android and iOS plus custom router firmware, and you can see why ExpressVPN impressed our experts and remain one of our most popular providers.

Additional features: three simultaneous connections, peer-to-peer (P2P) permitted.

Try the best VPN service today with a 30-day, no-quibble, money-back guarantee.

VPN Stats

  • Server Locations 94
  • Average Speed 77.14 Mbit/s
  • Simultaneous Connections 3
  • Jurisdiction British Virgin Islands

Likes

  • Super fast - great for streaming!
  • Very secure 256-bit encryption
  • Unlimited downloading
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • 5* 24/7 customer support
  • Special Deal: Save 49% Today

Dislikes

  • IPv6 WebRTC leaks (fixed by browser extension)
  • A little pricey
  • BVI jurisdiction is not ideal

Features

Port forwarding
Total servers 2000
Countries 94
Simultaneous connections 3
Bare metal or virtual servers A combination
Router Support
Allows torrenting
Port selection

Supported platforms

Windows
MacOS
iOS
Android
Linux

Protocols offered

PPTP
L2TP/IPsec
SSTP
IKEv2
OpenVPN

Privacy

Jurisdiction British Virgin Islands
Logs Traffic
Logs Connections
Logs Timestamps
Logs Bandwidth
Logs IP Address
Logs Aggregated or Anonymized Data

Performance

BestVPN.com SpeedTest (max/burst) 178.05
BestVPN.com SpeedTest (average) 77.14
WebRTC leak detected?

Payment

Visa/MasterCard
Amex
Cryptocurrency

Security

Kill Switch
Obfuscation (stealth)
Self-hosted/Proxied DNS Yes

Support

Free trial No
24-hour support
Live chat support
Money-back Guarantee

Unblocks:

Netflix
iPlayer

2. NordVPN

BestVPN.com Score 9.8 out of 10

NordVPN is a no logs VPN provider based in Panama. This alone makes it one of the best VPN choices available for privacy fanatics, as it puts it comfortably outside the direct influence of both the NSA and copyright holders. It backs up this privacy-friendly stance by using great encryption, and accepting potentially anonymous payment in bitcoins. Although I have to be convinced of its utility, many also value NordVPN’s support for “double-hop” VPN chaining (which essentially routes traffic through two servers rather than one).

Additional features: P2P permitted, supports obfsproxy technology to defeat censorship.

VPN Stats

  • Server Locations 62
  • Average Speed 59.23 Mbit/s
  • Simultaneous Connections 6
  • Jurisdiction Panama

Likes

  • Christmas Special Offer: 75% OFF!
  • Works with US Netflix and BBC iPlayer
  • Six simultaneous connections
  • Dedicated IPs (cost extra)
  • Based in Panama (great for privacy)

Dislikes

  • IPv6 leak in macOS IKEv2 app

Features

Port forwarding
Total servers 4568
Countries 62
Simultaneous connections 6
Bare metal or virtual servers Combination
Router Support
Allows torrenting
Port selection

Supported platforms

Windows
MacOS
iOS
Android
Linux

Protocols offered

PPTP
L2TP/IPsec
SSTP
IKEv2
OpenVPN

Privacy

Jurisdiction Panama
Logs Traffic
Logs Connections
Logs Timestamps
Logs Bandwidth
Logs IP Address
Logs Aggregated or Anonymized Data

Performance

BestVPN.com SpeedTest (max/burst) 229.99
BestVPN.com SpeedTest (average) 59.23
IPv4 leak detected?
WebRTC leak detected?

Payment

Visa/MasterCard
Amex
Cryptocurrency

Security

Kill Switch
Obfuscation (stealth)
Self-hosted/Proxied DNS Yes

Support

Free trial Yes - 3 Days
24-hour support
Live chat support
Money-back Guarantee

Unblocks:

Netflix
iPlayer

3. CyberGhost

BestVPN.com Score 9.5 out of 10

CyberGhost‘s software is easy-to-use while also being very fully featured. It uses very strong encryption, and 5 simultaneous connections is generous. Being based in Romania and keeping no meaningful logs is also a big draw. Like ExpressVPN, some minimal statistics are kept, but with no time stamp or IPs recorded, these present no threat to users' privacy.

CyberGhost’s great logging policy, decent local (burst) speeds, and fully featured software are a winning combination. And with a 7-day free premium trial plus 30-day no-quibble money back guarantee, there is zero reason not to give it a whirl.

VPN Stats

  • Server Locations 60
  • Average Speed 61.97 Mbit/s
  • Simultaneous Connections 7
  • Jurisdiction Romania

Likes

  • Christmas Special Offer: 77% OFF!
  • 45-day money-back guarantee
  • Unblocks US Netflix + BBC iPlayer
  • Peer-to-peer (P2P) torrenting allowed
  • Private: Strong no logs policy
  • Based in Romania so no government spying!

Dislikes

  • Not much

Features

Port forwarding
Total servers 2750
Countries 60
Simultaneous connections 7
Bare metal or virtual servers A combination
Router Support
Allows torrenting
Port selection

Supported platforms

Windows
MacOS
Android
Linux

Protocols offered

PPTP
L2TP/IPsec
SSTP
IKEv2
OpenVPN

Privacy

Jurisdiction Romania
Logs Traffic
Logs Connections
Logs Timestamps
Logs Bandwidth
Logs IP Address
Logs Aggregated or Anonymized Data

Performance

BestVPN.com SpeedTest (max/burst) 132.01
BestVPN.com SpeedTest (average) 61.97
IPv4 leak detected?
WebRTC leak detected?

Payment

Visa/MasterCard
Amex
Cryptocurrency

Security

Kill Switch
Obfuscation (stealth)
Self-hosted/Proxied DNS Yes

Support

Free trial No
24-hour support
Live chat support
Money-back Guarantee

Unblocks:

Netflix
iPlayer

4. PrivateVPN

BestVPN.com Score 9.4 out of 10

PrivateVPN is a zero-logs Swedish provider with 80+ servers in 52 countries around the world. It features both a firewall-based system kill switch and a per-app kill switch, which pretty neat. Full IPv4 and IPv6 DNS leak protection is also built-in to its client.

We have been particularly impressed by PrivateVPN’s high level of customer service, which even features remote installation for technophobes! Up to a generous 6 simultaneous devices are permitted, and port forwarding plus HTTPS and SOCKS5 proxies are a nice bonus.

With a 30-day no-quibble money back guarantee, why not give PrivateVPN a try?

Additional features: servers in 52 countries, works with US Netflix and iPlayer, kill switch and auto-connect, website available in English, German, Dutch, and Swedish.

VPN Stats

  • Server Locations 60
  • Average Speed 58.97 Mbit/s
  • Simultaneous Connections 6
  • Jurisdiction Sweden

Likes

  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • Servers in 56 countries
  • Strong OpenVPN encryption
  • Zero logs
  • 24/7 customer support

Dislikes

  • Not much

Features

Port forwarding
Total servers 100
Countries 60
Simultaneous connections 6
Bare metal or virtual servers A combination
Router Support
Allows torrenting
Port selection

Supported platforms

Windows
MacOS
iOS
Android
Linux

Protocols offered

PPTP
L2TP/IPsec
SSTP
IKEv2
OpenVPN
Other protocols IPSec, Shadowsocks

Privacy

Jurisdiction Sweden
Logs Traffic
Logs Connections
Logs Timestamps
Logs Bandwidth
Logs IP Address
Logs Aggregated or Anonymized Data

Performance

BestVPN.com SpeedTest (max/burst) 327.86
BestVPN.com SpeedTest (average) 58.97
IPv4 leak detected?
WebRTC leak detected?

Payment

Visa/MasterCard
Amex
Cryptocurrency

Security

Kill Switch
Obfuscation (stealth)
Self-hosted/Proxied DNS Proxy

Support

Free trial Yes - 7 days
24-hour support
Live chat support
Money-back Guarantee

Unblocks:

Netflix
iPlayer

5. ProtonVPN

BestVPN.com Score 9.2 out of 10

ProtonVPN is a superb no logs VPN that is run by the same people as ProtonMail. As well as having a free version with limited bandwidth, ProtonVPN has a full unlimited premium service. Servers are located in 14 countries, and they all provide fast speeds for streaming and doing other data-intensive tasks.

The software is available for all platforms and can be used on 5 simultaneous devices. The VPN is also fully featured with a killswitch, DNS leak protection Tor through VPN, and a Secure Core network. When it comes to logs, Proton keeps no usage logs whatsoever, no IP logs, and last login time is overwritten on each new connection. That makes Proton a very good VPN for privacy.

VPN Stats

  • Server Locations 16
  • Average Speed 53.67 Mbit/s
  • Simultaneous Connections 5
  • Jurisdiction Switzerland

Likes

  • Five simultaneous connections
  • Secure Core (double VPN) network is fast and… secure!
  • P2P torrenting permitted on selected severs
  • DNS leak protection and kill switch
  • Accepts payment in Bitcoin and cash

Dislikes

  • Swiss data retention laws
  • Netflix and BBC iPlayer blocked

Features

Port forwarding
Total servers 140
Countries 16
Simultaneous connections 5
Bare metal or virtual servers Bare metal
Router Support
Allows torrenting
Port selection

Supported platforms

Windows
MacOS
iOS
Android
Linux

Protocols offered

PPTP
L2TP/IPsec
SSTP
IKEv2
OpenVPN
Other protocols -

Privacy

Jurisdiction Switzerland
Logs Traffic
Logs Connections
Logs Timestamps
Logs Bandwidth
Logs IP Address
Logs Aggregated or Anonymized Data

Performance

BestVPN.com SpeedTest (max/burst) 101.96
BestVPN.com SpeedTest (average) 53.67
IPv4 leak detected?
WebRTC leak detected?

Payment

Visa/MasterCard
Amex
Cryptocurrency

Security

Kill Switch
Obfuscation (stealth)
Self-hosted/Proxied DNS Yes

Support

Free trial Yes - 7 days
24-hour support
Live chat support
Money-back Guarantee

Unblocks:

Netflix
iPlayer

No-log VPN FAQs

In our many years reviewing VPN services, we have encountered many questions regarding how a VPN works and what can be achieved when using one. The guide below aims to provide a high level summary to these questions, but, if you would like to learn more about what a VPN is and how it works take a look at our VPN guide for beginners.

What is a VPN?

If you don’t know what a VPN is, the important thing to understand is that it's a tool that can provide privacy when you are online. It does this in three ways:

  1. It hides your data from your ISP

    A VPN connects your device to a server run by a VPN provider. This “VPN server” acts as an intermediary (“proxy”), sitting between you and the internet. All data traveling between your device and the VPN server is securely encrypted.

    This means that no-one can see your data as it passes between your device and the VPN server. Most importantly, this includes your internet provider (ISP). In the normal course of events, your ISP can see and log all data that passes between you and the internet unless it is encrypted in some way.

    If you visit a secure website - for example your bank’s, or any online store - your data will almost certainly be encrypted using HTTPS. Your ISP, however, can see any data relating to non-HTTPS websites and other unencrypted internet services. It can see what you torrent, for example. For more information about staying secure when torrenting, see our best VPN for torrent sites guide.

    Using a VPN prevents this because it encrypts all data traveling between your device and the VPN server.

  2. It hides where you go on the internet from your ISP

    Usually, your ISP connects you to websites and other internet resources. It therefore always knows which websites you visit. If a website is not protected by HTTPS, it also knows each individual webpage on that website you visit.

    A VPN server acts as a proxy sitting between you and the internet. Your ISP connects you to the VPN server, but the VPN server routes all connections after that. This means that your ISP only knows it has connected you to a given internet address. If it has reason to look, it can probably fairly easily find out that address belongs to a VPN server, but that’s it. It cannot know what else you get up to on the internet.

    If you would like to know what a proxy is and how they work, we recommend visiting our Proxy Server guide.

  3. It hides who you are from the internet

    All your interactions with the internet are mediated through a VPN server. Just as your ISP cannot see what you do on the internet because your activity is blocked by the VPN server, so too is your ISP’s identity and real internet (IP) address blocked from websites and anyone watching from the other side – the internet.

    Websites often use a variety of sneaky tactics to try to find out who you are and track you, but they will not know your real IP address. To prevent other forms of website tracking you should use browser privacy add-ons.

What are VPN logs?

To a large extent, the VPN provider simply replaces your ISP as a point of weakness. Instead of your ISP, your VPN provider can now see your non-HTTPS encrypted web traffic, which websites you visit, and which non-HTTPS web pages you visit.

This difference is that almost all VPN services promise to protect your privacy in ways that your ISP almost certainly does not. And to some extent, almost all respectable VPN services provide some level of protection. It is very bad for a VPN’s business reputation to cooperate with requests for customers’ data, be such requests from a government, police force, or copyright holder.

And if the VPN service is based in a different country or jurisdiction, forcing the provider to disclose information can be lengthy and expensive.

But it can be done, and no VPN provider’s staff will go to jail (or ruin their business) to protect a customer. If the data exists, a VPN provider can - in theory - be compelled to hand it over.

This means that the only way for a VPN service to guarantee the privacy of its users (which is, after all, many VPN services entire business model), is to store no information that can be handed over - even if it wants to or is somehow forced to.

This is why many VPN providers back up their privacy credentials by claiming to keep no logs. After all: it can’t hand over what it simply doesn’t have.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion over what “no logs” really means, and many such claims are less than forthright on providers’ part.

Usage logs and connection logs

The logs a VPN can keep can basically be separated into what we term usage logs and connection logs.

  • Usage logs are the details of what you get up to on the internet, such as which websites you visit etc.
  • Connection logs are metadata logs. A full set of connection logs includes a timestamp of when you log in to a VPN server, when you log out, the IP address you log in from, your username, and how much bandwidth you use.

Unless you pay for the service anonymously in some way (for example using properly mixed Bitcoins), your username and/or IP address is usually associated with payment detail such your bank number or PayPal address.

If you're interested in seeing a list of VPNs that accept Bitcoins as a method of payment, take a look at our Best Bitcoin VPNs guide.

No VPN service that we know of, routinely keeps usage logs.

Many VPN services, though, do keep extensive connection logs. Why? Sometimes they are required to by the laws of the country they are based in, but even if not, many keep connection logs anyway.

Such logs make it much easier to run a VPN service - to locate and fix problems, to provide customer support and refunds, to measure performance, and to provide a smooth-running operation in general.

Although many VPN services claim to be a “zero log VPN,” they mean they keep no usage logs. But they often keep extensive connection logs.

Connection logs are dangerous

Consider the following situation: Bob does something on the internet that interests the police. The police know that something was done using IP address xxx. If Bob is not using a VPN then it is easy enough to find out that IP address xxx belongs to a particular ISP. The police then just ask that ISP which customer address xxx belongs to, and question Bob.

If Bob is using a VPN then the situation is more complicated. The police can easily find out that IP address xxx is not a private address, but belongs to a VPN server. They can then ask the VPN provider to simply hand over all data it has relating to that address, or force it to with a subpoena or court order.

If the provider keeps no logs at all, then it has nothing it can hand over that might help the police. If it keeps connection logs, however, the police can perform what is called a timing attack to identify Bob:

They ask the VPN provider to state which user or IP address used IP address xxx at the time the incident took place. If only one person was using IP address xxx at that time then the police can trace that IP through its ISP as normal.

Most VPN services, however, deliberately muddy the water by using shared IPs. This means many customers use the same out-facing IP at once.

If enough data points are available (other records of when and which IPs belonging to the VPN service were used), then statistical analysis can fairly easily uncover the Bob’s IP address. This is known as a traffic correlation attack.

If not enough data points are available (for example the police are investigating a single incident) then a traffic correlation attack will fail and the police will not be able to identify Bob.

However, if the police already suspect Bob and know his real IP address (from his ISP), the fact that he was using IP address xxx as the time of the incident may not constitute proof of anything, but it can provide powerful supporting evidence when building a case.

Logs E1527154618960

Real-time logs

All of which is not to say that VPNs are good at hiding criminal activity. They are not. Inherent to the nature of VPN technology is that logs are created in real-time. Someone monitoring a VPN server can always see the home IP addresses of all users, plus the IP addresses they visit for as long as they are connected.

A genuine no logs VPN company will simply discard this information as it is generated. Or sometimes, as soon as users disconnect from the service…. which takes into grey areas we’ll discuss in a minute. What is critical to understand here is that whether or not a VPN service routinely keeps logs, it can do so.

And if it can, then it might.

In the example above, let’s say the police subpoena the VPN provider to hand over all of its logs. The VPN provider must comply, but turns around and says “Here is everything we have... which is nothing, because we keep no logs. Sorry!”

The police can then issue another subpoena ordering the provider to start logging from here-on. If Bob is a regular customer and carries on doing whatever it is that interests the police, enough data points will soon be collected to identify him through a traffic collation attack.

Such subpoena’s and court orders are typically accompanied by a gag order, which prevents the VPN provider from warning Bob or other customers that it has been compromised. This is why some providers issue warrant canaries (see below).

What exactly is “no logs”?

Which, of course, brings us to the $64 million question: how can we define “no logs?” If a provider deletes all logs five minutes after a session ends, is it no logs? If a provider collects some aggregated usage statistics but nothing that can be used to identify its users, is it no logs? If a VPN provider associates a timestamp with each user account, but only keeps the most recent timestamp, is it no logs?

There are no definitive answers to these questions. If could be argued that only the strictest interpretation will do – only if all logs are sent to a /dev/null file (deleted) the instant they are generated can a provider be called “no logs”. This seems very unfair, however, on providers keep some minimal data, but not anything such as timestamps and IP addresses that can be used to identify users.

After all, the entire point of keeping no logs is to protect users’ privacy, so what is the point of being hard-line on providers who do not keep any logs that threaten (or present any realistic threat) to their users' privacy?

BestVPN.com therefore defines any VPN service that does not store information that can be used to identify its users (such as timestamps and IP addresses) for more than a few minutes after the connection has ended as a no logs VPN.

Privacy not anonymity

If your VPN provider always knows your real IP address and when you connect to its service, then you are not anonymous in any real sense of the word. This is why we much prefer to say that VPNs provide privacy, not anonymity.

If you are a whistleblower, journalist, political dissident, or other person in need of real anonymity you should use Tor instead.

So why all this faff about using a no logs VPN?

We expect any VPN that promises to protect your privacy to be able to do so with a fair degree of robustness. And if a VPN keeps logs then any promises it makes to protect your privacy are simply not worth the digital paper they are printed on as it has no way to back up this claim.

We, therefore, consider a robust no-logs policy to be the mark of VPN provider that genuinely cares about its users’ privacy and has taken meaningful steps to protect it.

Account information

VPN services are commercial enterprises - their purpose is to make money. As such, they need to get paid! And to get paid they need to know who has paid for what, and when their subscription comes to an end.

So on top logs generated by the VPN server itself, every VPN service must keep some kind of account information. This information, however, does not need to compromise users’ privacy.

For example: A provider could maintain a simple list of usernames together with their expiry date. The usernames do not need to be associated with any email addresses, contact details, or other personally identifiable information. Once a username has expired it simply cannot be used to login to the service. There is no need to associate any online activity with that username.

If you are being pedantic you could argue that a log is being kept – a list of usernames and subscription expiry dates. However, the names on this list are not associated with an identifiable individual and are not associated with any activity while using the VPN (even when the VPN is being monitored in real-time).

We think that any VPN company using such a system could justifiably describe itself as keeping no logs.

Can we trust VPN providers?

This is the second $64 million question. The simple truth is that there is no cast-iron guarantee that a VPN provider is not outright lying about the logs it keeps. Choosing a VPN provider, therefore, comes down to a matter of trust.

So how do you know a provider can be trusted? Well… privacy orientated VPN providers have built their business models on promising privacy. If it becomes known that they failed to do this (for example by keeping logs even when they promised not to, and then being compelled to hand these over to the authorities), their businesses would be worthless.

They might also find themselves liable for legal action by their former customers!

Another point to consider is that the more logs a VPN company keeps, the weaker its position when it comes to handling legal demands. A no logs VPN provider can, on receipt of a National Security Letter, subpoena, or court order, honestly turn around and say, “sorry, we are happy to help in every way we can, but we have nothing to give you.”

This will put it in a much stronger position than a company that keeps logs and whose staff then have to decide between betraying their customers (and therefore destroying the reputation of their business) or facing legal action. Just remember that no VPN company staff member will be willing to go to jail to protect your privacy!

So keeping no logs is the safest thing (from a purely selfish standpoint) any company that is even half-way serious about privacy can do! But as we have already said, if you really require very high levels of true anonymity then use a Tor instead of a VPN.

What is certain is that a VPN will protect your privacy far better than your ISP will, without badly compromising your internet experience (as Tor will). You pay your money and you take your chances…

Always Read the ToS and Privacy Policies

In reality, most VPN providers will not lie outright about the logs they keep. They may say NO LOGS!!! in big letters on their home pages, but will cover their backs from a legal perspective by qualifying such claims in the small print.

This is why we always carefully go through each providers’ Terms of Service (ToS) and Privacy Policies with a fine tooth comb for our full VPN reviews. The grubby details behind the big claims are often exposed here, so if you care about privacy you should always check the small print (or read BestVPN.com’s reviews and let us do it for you!).

Warrant Canaries

As we have already touched on, court orders, subpoenas, and national security letters usually come with an attached gag order. This prevents staff from warning customers that they have been required to cooperate with the authorities on pain of serious legal repercussions. And as we have also said, no VPN staff are going to risk jail time for you.

Some companies try to mitigate this issue through the use of warrant canaries. Please see Are Warrant Canaries Useful? for an in-depth look at this subject.

Canary 2 E1527154589135

Server Logs

One of the benefits of using a VPN service is that you can bypass censorship and location-based blocks by connecting to servers around the world. With a couple of notable exceptions (IPVanish and VyprVPN , but VyprVPN keeps extensive logs), most of these servers will be hired from third-party server providers.

These server providers keep their own logs, and unlike privacy-focused VPN companies, will have no compunction against handing them over to the authorities when asked. So is this is a problem? Yes. But it can be heavily mitigated against.

For a start, any VPN provider worth its salt will protect its servers using full disk encryption on all drives.

Second, the data that that most server providers routinely log is high-level stuff required for the operation of the server center: overall data usage by servers, server uptime, and so forth. There is no reason to log the IPs of everyone who connects to their servers, and any good VPN service will be careful to partner with server providers who keep minimal such logs.

An adversary could monitor IP addresses that connect to the VPN server (or require the server center to so) in order to perform a traffic correlation attack. This is not a trivial task, however, and would constitute a highly targeted attack. And it is made more difficult if the VPN server is located in a different jurisdiction to the investigating authorities…

Servers

Jurisdictions

In many countries, VPN providers are required by law to keep logs for a certain period of time. As a general rule, if any provider in such a country claims to not keep logs, then it is lying. There are, however, some notable exceptions and grey areas.

The European Union

The EU’s Data Retention Directive (DRD) required “telecommunication providers” to keep logs, but did not make it clear whether VPN services classed as “telecommunication providers.”

When individual EU member countries transposed the DRD into local law, some explicitly included VPNs, while some explicitly excluded them (the Netherlands, Sweden, and Italy, for example). Many others simply left the situation vague, while Romania rejected the DRD in its entirety.

This already confusing situation was further complicated in 2014 when the European Court of Justice (ECJ) declared the DRD invalid on human rights grounds. Most EU countries have not acted on this decision, and have retained their local versions of the surveillance law.

In theory, this means that VPN providers in many EU countries are still required by law to keep logs. But many claim not to. They usually say that local interpretations of the DRD are invalid thanks to the ECJ decision and that, if challenged by their government, they would take the case to the European court.

This may well be a valid argument, but it is probably safer to use a VPN provider from an EU country that never required VPN services to keep logs in the first place.

The United Kingdom

In defiance of the 2014 ECJ ruling on the DRD, the UK enacted the 2016 Investigatory Powers Act (IPA). Famously described by Edward Snowden as “the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy,” the IPA requires VPN services to keep detailed usage logs of all activity for 12 months.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a UK High Court has now ruled that the IPA incompatible is with European law and must be rewritten by the start of November 2018. At the time of writing, however, the law is still very much in place and the government has given no indication of how it will respond to this ruling.

It is also worth noting that the UK is a leading member of the Five Eyes spying alliance. Even before the IPA became law, UK VPN services were informally required to keep extensive logs which have been used in the past to catch and convict their users.

So if privacy is even a small part of why you use a VPN, we strongly recommend that you avoid British VPN providers.

For more information see our VPN UK guide.

Switzerland

Switzerland has always been regarded as a great place for privacy services to be based. It has famously strong privacy laws, is not subject to EU legislation, and is not a member of the Five Eyes (or even Fourteen Eyes) spying alliance.

Unfortunately, Switzerland has recently passed some alarming new surveillance laws. These require Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and telecoms operators to store detailed connection logs for 12 months. What isn’t clear (because the wording of the laws themselves isn’t clear) is whether these logging requirements apply to email and VPN services.

Swiss-based ProtonMail says it has been assured they don’t, but this means taking Proton’s word on a promise made to it behind closed doors. Whatever the practical implementation of the new laws will be, the letter of the law remains worryingly vague.

The United States

The United States has no mandatory data retention laws. Thanks to Edward Snowden, plus other revelations that have come to light since the infamous whistleblower went public, we know that the NSA and other US alphabet agencies have a “collect it all” attitude to all data.

The sheer scale and reach of their mass surveillance ambitions are truly frightening.

Now… there are some very good no logs American VPN services out there. But in a world where even small US privacy tech companies have been strong-armed into handing over their customers’ encryption keys, it is hard to see how high-profile VPN companies have evaded becoming compromised by the US government.

This is why we usually put a red flag up when discussing US VPN companies and privacy. Just to complicate the issue further, though, US-based Private Internet Access (PIA) is one of the very few VPN companies anywhere to have proved its no-logs claims in front of a court of law - not just once, but twice!

So who knows? Again, you pays your money and you takes your chances…

Conclusion

Using a VPN can provide a very high level of privacy on the internet, including a high level of resistance to mass government surveillance. And it does this with minimal impact on your internet experience.

A robust no-logs policy is the mark of a VPN service that respects its users’ privacy, so anyone using a VPN for privacy should pick a good “no logs VPN.” Just don’t expect any VPN to protect you if you commit a major crime or if you are Edward Snowden.

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Image Credits:

Yi-Chen Chiang/Shutterstock.com
Xenia Shilova/Shutterstock.com
Maximumm/Shutterstock.com

Written by: Douglas Crawford

I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. You can now follow me on Twitter - @douglasjcrawf.

20 Comments

  1. Yoshi
    on July 30, 2018
    Reply

    Many thanks for the great in-depth articles you write here, Douglas. What one could notice in addition is that depending on the personal level of paranoia, it is of course very well possible to cascade VPNs as well similar to the nice layers of the famous onion, only still way faster. When in doubt, there is also still the good old school method of sitting in a phone booth with an acoustic coupler at hand (every good household should have one) in the best cheesy but cult 90s movie "Hackers" - style. "Grand Central Station" it is. ;) https://youtu.be/s-eZSIn9kHA

  2. Robin
    on May 1, 2018
    Reply

    NordVPN not on your list?

  3. Scott
    on April 15, 2018
    Reply

    ExpressVPN does keep logs. Please read the privacy policy. https://www.expressvpn.com/privacy-policy Quote: "Successful connection We collect information about whether you have successfully established a VPN connection on a particular day (but not a specific time of the day), to which VPN location (but not your assigned outgoing IP address), and from which country/ISP (but not your source IP address)."

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to Scott
      on April 16, 2018
      Reply

      Hi Scott, As I note in this article: "Although this top-tier VPN provider keeps some minimal anonymous usage statistics, these do not include a timestamp or IP address. To all practical intents and purposes, this makes ExpressVPN a no-logs VPN. "

  4. iytty
    on December 24, 2017
    Reply

    hide me vpn

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