What does a VPN hide?


Is it Safe?

by Colin Aulds
Updated 03/10/2020


Introduction

At its most basic level, a Virtual Private Network or VPN for short, hides your IP address. However, as we will see below, this doesn’t tell the full story. You will learn what your Internet Service Provider, Google, and others are doing with your IP address. Only then will we fully discover what a VPN hides.   




A VPN Hides Your Identity


Let’s say that you would like view and post anonymously on social media. Perhaps you have views that you care deeply about. You want to advocate for them without those views being attributed to you personally. There could be many reasons for this. What if you live in Iran and want to speak critically of the Iranian Government? It would be detrimental to your families well-being to do so. If you could post anonymously you could speak out much more plainly on social media. Sometimes just liking a post has been enough to get citizens in trouble. Creating another account on social media would not be enough to keep you truly private. Social media companies know the IP address that you log into your "annonomous" account. Logging into your personal account with the same IP address will allow the company to correlate the two. They will then know it was the same person. If they are asked to hand over these records, other people will know this as well. This could including employers, law enforcement or your government. Using a VPN will hide your identity online and in social media.    

A VPN Hides Your Browsing History


Your browsing history is being logged by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and your workplace, even when you are in incognito mode. Using a VPN hides your browsing history from your ISP and your employer. We don’t advocate you breaking rules at work. However, using a VPN can help avoid questions you’d rather not have to answer.   

A VPN Hides Your Spending Habits


There are many companies that track your spending habits online. This tracking does not stop at the borders of their website. If you are logged in, Facebook tracks all your browser history even in other browser tabs. They record purchases from any tabs that are open. Google and your ISP will track your spending too. They either use the data internally to target you with ads or, even worse, sell it to third parties. Once these companies have this data, you have no control over what they do with it or how it is used. It is better to ensure that they do not have it to begin with. You should use a VPN to ensure that these companies do not have your spending data.

A VPN Hides Torrenting Activity


Many people use torrenting sites to download movies, music, or other content. Much of the content downloaded through these sites is copyrighted. This means that making unauthorized copies of them is technically illegal. Many large media companies and their proxies have stated that they are monitoring torrent sites. They collect the IP addresses of people who download their content through torrents. Using a VPN hides torrenting activity by not letting these media companies know your true IP address. If you are using a VPN they will only know the IP address of your VPN service. This highlights the importance of paying for a premium VPN service that will not compromise your identity or keep any logs. A free VPN has no incentive to keep your identity private and is MUCH more likely to be keeping logs of what you do. One formerly popular free VPN was even caught selling user data. This is why we consistently rate Express VPN with the highest marks. Express VPN never logs your IP address, browsing history, meta data, or traffic destination. They also welcome independent auditors inside to verify that this is the case.

A VPN Hides Personal Data


If you connect to wifi at coffee shops, airports or hotels, you are exposing the data you are sending over the network. They will be able to see anything you say or send. This could be anything as innocuous as an email that you send to your loved ones to something as important as password to your banking accounts. Using a VPN encrypts all this data from the time it leaves your computer. It ensures that malicious third parties cannot use this data to steal from you.

A VPN Hides Google Search History


Your google searches are correlated with your IP address. Google uses these queries to target you with ads. Google search history has and continues to be used in court. In one case extreme case, it was even labeled a crime in and of itself. Needless to say, we have all googles weird things from time to time. Without full context and an understanding audience, these searches could look embarrassing. Using a VPN and logging out of all your google accounts, will solve this problem. Additionally, we recommend using search engines like DuckDuckGO whenever possible. DuckDuckGo does not log search history.

A VPN Hides Your Location


Using a VPN allows you to hide your location. If you are a citizen of a country that censors news, this is vitally important. Many citizen of China use VPNs to get around the “Great Firewall of China”. VPNs enable them to see news that their government has blocked. VPNs will also allow you to access geo-blocked content from streaming services. The show “Better Call Saul” was available on Netflix UK almost a year before it became available in the US. VPN users could access Netflix UK by changing to a UK based IP address. There are also many features which are location based. Some types of subtitles are only available in certain counties. Using a VPN will enable access to all the features available for the service you are paying for.

Conclusion


Using a VPN allows you to hide your location. If you are a citizen of a country that censors news, this is vitally important. Many citizen of China use VPNs to get around the “Great Firewall of China”. VPNs enable them to see news that their government has blocked. VPNs will also allow you to access geo-blocked content from streaming services. The show “Better Call Saul” was available on Netflix UK almost a year before it became available in the US. VPN users could access Netflix UK by changing to a UK based IP address. There are also many features which are location based. Some types of subtitles are only available in certain counties. Using a VPN will enable access to all the features available for the service you are paying for.

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