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VPN Services That Take Your Anonymity Seriously, 2013 Edition


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More than a year ago TorrentFreak took a look at a selection of the
web’s VPN providers to see which ones really take privacy seriously.
During the months that followed we received dozens of emails begging us
to carry out an update and today here it is. The first installment in
our list of VPN providers that due to their setup cannot link user
activity to external IP addresses and activities.

Prompted by a high-profile case
of an individual using an ‘anonymous’ VPN that turned out to offer less
than expected protection, TorrentFreak decided to ask a selection of
VPN companies some tough questions.

With our findings we compiled a report of providers
that due to their setup were unable to link their outbound IP addresses
with user accounts. Ever since we have received countless emails
demanding an update.


It’s taken a long time but today we bring the first installment in a
series of posts highlighting VPN providers that take privacy seriously.
Our first article focuses on anonymity and a later installment will
highlight file-sharing aspects and possible limitations.


We tried to ask direct questions that left providers with little room
for maneuver. Providers who didn’t answer our questions directly,
didn’t answer at all, or completely failed by logging everything, were
simply left out. Sadly this meant that quite a few were disregarded.


This year we also asked more questions, which are as follows:


1. Do you keep ANY logs which would allow you or a
3rd party to match an IP-address and a time stamp to a user of your
service? If so, exactly what information do you hold?


2. Under what jurisdictions does your company
operate and under what exact circumstances will you share the
information you hold with a 3rd party?


3. In the event you receive a DMCA takedown notice or European equivalent, how are these handled?


4. Which payment systems do you operate and how are these linked to individual user accounts?


The list of providers is a tiny sample of the thousands out there
today and is not comprehensive by any means. Providers not covered this
time around will be added during the coming weeks. All responses listed
below are in the words of the providers themselves and the order of the
list does not carry any meaning.


BTGuard


btguard2.jpg

1. We do not keep any logs whatsoever.

2. The jurisdiction is Canada. Since we do not have log files, we
have no information to share. We do not communicate with any third
parties. The only event we would even communicate with a third-party is
if we received a court order. We would then be forced to notify them we
have no information. This has not happened yet.

3. We do not have any open incoming ports, so it’s not possible for us to “takedown” any broadcasting content.

4. At the moment we only accept Paypal and Bitcoin. We have plans to
accept alternative credit card processing in the near future.

BTguard website


Private Internet Access


pia.png

1. We absolutely do not maintain any VPN logs of any kind. We utilize
shared IP addresses rather than dynamic or static IPs, so it is not
possible to match a user to an external IP. These are some of the many
solutions we have implemented to enable the strongest levels of
anonymity amongst VPN services.

2. Our company currently operates out of the United States with
gigabit gateways in the US, Canada, Germany, France, UK, Switzerland,
Sweden, the Netherlands and Romania. We chose the US, since it is one
of the few countries without a mandatory data retention law. We will not
share any information with third parties without a valid court order.
With that said, it is impossible to match a user to any activity on our
system since we utilize shared IPs and maintain absolutely no logs.


3. We are in compliance with DMCA as all companies, world-wide, must
be. We have proprietary technology and an experienced legal team which
allows us to comply without any risk to our users.


4. We accept many payment methods directly, including PayPal, CC,
Google, Amazon, Bitcoin, Liberty Reserve, OKPay, and CashU. Further, we
would like to encourage our users to use an anonymous e-mail and pay
with Bitcoins to ensure even higher levels of anonymity should it be
required. We only store the minimal information required to provide
customers refunds.

Private Internet Access website

Torguard

torguard.png

1. TorGuard doesn’t store IP’s or time stamps on our VPN/proxy servers,
not even for a second. It’s impossible to match what is not there. Since
some people tend to misbehave when using a VPN , this raises the
obvious question: how do we maintain a fast, abuse-free network? If even
our network engineer can’t back track the abuser by IP, then how do we
stop it?


Through packet level filtering at the firewall it’s possible to apply
rules to an entire shared server, blocking the abuse immediately. For
example, let’s say someone decides to use TorGuard to unlawfully promote
their Ugg boots business (spam). In order for us to block this one
individual, we simply implement new firewall rules, effectively blocking
the abused protocol for everyone on that VPN server. Since there are no
user logs to go by, we handle abuse per server, not per user.

2. TorGuard recently went through some corporate restructuring and
has now moved its parent company to Nevis, West Indies. Our company
abides by all International laws and data regulations imposed within our
legal jurisdiction. We don’t share any information with anyone
regarding our network or its users and won’t even consider communicating
with a 3rd party unless they’ve first obtained adequate representation
within our legal jurisdiction. Only in the event of an official court
ordered ruling would we be forced to hand over blank hard drives.
There’s nothing to hand over but an operating system.


3. TorGuard complies immediately (24 hours or less) with all DMCA
takedown notices. Since it’s impossible for us to locate which user on
the server is actually responsible for the violation, we block the
infringing protocol in its entirety, whatever it may be – Kazaa, HTTP,
Jabber, Citrix, Bittorrent, FTP, Gnucleus, eDonkey2000, etc. This
ensures the content in violation is immediately removed from that server
and no longer active on our network.


4. We accept all forms of credit card, Visa, Amex, Mastercard,
Discover, PayPal , Google Checkout and Bitcoins. We also accept
anonymous payments through our pre-paid PIN system. These pre-paid
service PIN numbers can be purchased from one of our participating
online resellers and redeemed during checkout on our website.

Our client billing area and VPN/Proxy user auth servers are two
completely separate systems. This is to ensure the privacy and
securities of our customer’s accounts are upheld at all times. While the
customer’s chosen payment method will be linked to the client billing
area login, this information is kept completely separate from their
VPN/Proxy network. In this way, it’s virtually impossible to “connect
the dots” of a paying customer with that of someone who is using the
servers. This can become a pain for clients as they are required to
remember two sets of logins/passwords, but trust us – it’s in the best
interest of security.


TorGuard website

Privacy.io

privacyio.jpg

1) We do not keep any logs on our servers. Neither us nor 3rd parties are able to match IPs to a username.

2) Privacy IO is an Australian Registered business. Under no
circumstances will we provide any 3rd party information about our users.
We are unable to comply with DMCA or equivalent as we have no access or
power to do anything about it. As we keep no logs we can not link it to
a user to apply said request. If the law attempts to make us do such
things, we will move our business to a location where that can not
occur, and if that fails we will close up shop before we provide any
information.


3) See answer to question 2


4) At present we only accept PayPal and CC (processed by PayPal), but
we are looking into alternative types of payments. We go out of our way
to make sure that PayPal transactions are not linked to the users, we
generate a unique key per transaction to verify payment for the account
is made, and then nuke that unique key.


Privacy.io website


Anonine

anonine.png

1. We store a users E-mail and username, that´s it. This means that we do
not store, or have access to, any traffic logs of any kind. By traffic
logs we mean, any kind of data that has the potential to, directly or
indirectly, match a users original ip or identity with one of our IPs.


2. It is important to remember that we do not store any traffic logs,
and therefore it would be physically impossible for us to hand
something like that over to a 3rd party. This, next to the encryption,
is the core of the entire anonymity aspect of the service. This is
possible by the fact that we operate under Swedish jurisdiction and
Swedish law.

3. Our no logging policy has never really caused us any trouble since
we never have received any official requests to hand over any traffic
logs.


4. We accept credit card payments through Paypal and Payson. For
Swedish users we also accept payments through sms and phone. We do not
store data from these services. However, each of these services store
various types and amounts of data related to the payment, and the
payment only, which we do have access to. This is what allows us to
perform refunds, or to provide adequate support services etc.


Anonine website

IVPN

ivpn.jpg

1. No. As a privacy service and EFF member, IVPN’s main priority is the
anonymity of its users. We use non-persistent logs (stored in memory) on
our gateway servers. The logs are only stored for 10 minutes. That time
window gives us the ability to troubleshoot any connection problems
that may appear, but after 10 minutes no trace of activity is stored.


2. IVPN is based in Malta and is subject to its laws. We also have
servers in the UK, US, France and Netherlands. We do not share data with
3rd parties. If law enforcement served us with a subpoena and compelled
us to log traffic we would shut down the business before cooperating,
and relocate to a new jurisdiction.

3. We ensure that our network providers understand the nature of our
business and that we do not host any content. As a condition of the safe
harbor provisions they are required to inform us of each infringement
which includes the date, title of the content and the IP address of the
gateway through which it was downloaded. We simply respond to each
notice confirming that we do not host the content in question.


4. We currently accept Bitcoin, Paypal and Payza. No information
relating to a customers payment account is stored with the exception of
automated Paypal subscriptions where we are required to store the
subscription ID in order to assign it to an invoice (only for the
duration of the subscription after which it is deleted). We recommend
using Bitcoin and manually paying for subscriptions if you wish to keep
the source of funding anonymous.

IVPN website

AirVPN

airvpn1.jpg

1. We don’t keep any log that can allow a 3rd party to do that.


2. AirVPN operates in Italy. The applicable laws can be those of the
countries where the servers are physically located (old issue about
jurisdiction vs. applicable law). Since we don’t hold any information
(we don’t even require a valid e-mail address) we are unable to share
anything that may compromise privacy about VPN usage.

3. DMCAs are just ignored: no private entity claim can be considered a proof of anything (even in light of the paper
by the University of Washington “Tracking the trackers – Why My Printer
Received a DMCA Takedown Notice”) and the details given in DMCA notices
(pertaining to p2p) lack any substantial proof of any infringement. We
sometimes ask for a proof of the alleged claim, just to try to see which
methods are used to make up an infringement claim, but so far all
private entities have poorly failed to respond with any proof or even
with technical details on how such claims are fabricated.

4. We accept payment via Bitcoin, Liberty Reserve, PayPal and credit
cards. Bitcoin and Liberty Reserve are not linked to accounts: we
provide coupon codes (even through independent resellers) that can be
used to activate any account. Therefore the link between a payment and
an account does not exist.


With PayPal, we don’t keep such information but PayPal does, just
like any bank or financial institution. However, a PayPal payment shows
that a person sent money to use AirVPN services, but it does not show
how the VPN has been used by that person and not even IF that person has
ever connected to a VPN server. The same considerations apply to credit
cards transactions. Anyway we don’t (and we don’t want to) directly
process credit cards, so we don’t keep any credit card database.

Of course, usage of Bitcoin (and if you’re paranoid, Bitcoin over TOR) is recommended.

AirVPN website

PrivatVPN

privatvpn.jpg

1. We don’t keep ANY logs that allow us or a 3rd party to match an IP
address and a time stamp to a user our service. The only thing we log
are e-mails and user names but it’s not possible to bind a activity on
the Internet to a user. This applies to all our servers except our U.S.
servers.


Note: We’re logging IP addresses and time stamp on the incoming
connection for our U.S. servers. We offer no anonymity on our U.S.
servers.

2. We operate in Swedish jurisdiction. Since we do not log any IP
addresses we have nothing to disclose. Circumstances doesn’t matter in
this case, we have no information regarding our customers’ IP addresses
and activity on the Internet. Therefore we have no information to share
with any 3rd party.

3. This depends on the country in which we’re receiving a DMCA
takedown. For example, we’ve received a DMCA takedown for UK and Finland
and our respone was to close p2p traffic on those countries.

4. No one can bind a payment to a IP you’ll get from us when you connect to our service (Paypal, Payson).

PrivatVPN website


PRQ


prq.png

1. No logs are held or kept.

2. We operate in Swedish jurisdiction. We do not give out any information, since we do not have any information to give out.

3. We do not care or get scared about the DMCA.

4. We accept Wiretransfer, Bitcoin and Bankgiro. We only require a working e-mail address to be a customer.

PRQ website

Mullvad

mullvad.jpg

1. We keep no logs. This would make both us and our users more vulnerable so we certainly don’t.

2. We operate under Swedish jurisdiction. We will not expose data to
third parties. First of all we take pains to not actually possess
information that could be of interest to third parties, to the extent
possible. In the end there is no practical way for the Swedish
government to get information about our users from us.

3. There is no Swedish law equivalent to the DMCA that is applicable to us.

4. We accept Bitcoin, cash (in the mail) and PayPal / credit cards.
Our accounts are just numbers with no personal information attached, not
even an email address. Still, paying through Paypal allows them to
associate the account number with the payment forever. People who do not
like that should pay with cash or Bitcoin.

Mullvad website

Faceless.me

faceless.jpg

1. We keep connection logs in our system, but they contain only
depersonalized data, that allows us to optimize traffic routes and make
connection more fast. These logs are stored for 7 days, but they are not
interesting for anyone. In the event we are sued we can deliver only
this information.

2. Our company based in Cyprus. Our servers are located in
Netherlands and USA and we operate under jurisdictions of these
countries [for these servers]. We don’t store any information that’s
useful to 3rd parties. Any talk about this is possible only by court
order.

3. We don’t have any mechanics to block users, we also have no
information about which user the complaint is against but we are
developing a system to alert our users in case there is a complaint
about their activities.

4. We use Plimus Payment System for all user accounts. iPhone / iPad /
iPod users can purchase a subscription from an application that can be
installed from Apple AppStore. Payment is made through the AppStore
billing system. Users of devices based on Android can purchase a
subscription from an application that can be installed from Google Play.
Payment is made through Google Checkout.

Faceless website

BlackVPN


blackvpn.jpg

1. On our Privacy servers we don’t log anything that can identify a single
user, but on our US, Canada, UK, Germany & Singapore servers where
we don’t allow file-sharing. We do log the internal RFC1918 IP that is
assigned to the user at a specific time. We never log the real external
IP address of the user.

We also hold a username and email address of our subscribers, the
times of connection and disconnection to our services along with
bandwidth consumption.

2. We now operate under the jurisdiction of Hong Kong because we
worry what the lawmakers in USA and Europe may introduce to make things
difficult for proxies and VPNs. We will fiercely protect the privacy and
rights of our users and we will not disclose any information on our
users to anyone, unless forced to by law enforcement personnel that have
produced a court order.

3. On our Privacy servers DMCA does not apply (eg USA DMCA to our
Swiss server). If we receive a DMCA on our other servers (US, UK,
Canada, Germany & Singapore) we generally give the user one warning
that they are violating our TOS and their account may be terminated.

4. Our payments systems are PayPal, Bitcoin & Liberty Reserve. We
have an internal database linking payment references to user accounts.
Bitcoin is the most private way to pay, for other payment systems all
private billing information is stored with them.

BlackVPN website

Ipredator

ipredator.jpg

1. We keep connection logs for debugging purposes, which happens encrypted
and off-site. Connection logs contain information for debugging PPTP
client issues. We try to store the least amount legally possible
anywhere. IP-addresses are encrypted and can only be decrypted by
non-support staff to ensure a proper process. For example, to work
around issues where the police ruffles up the support staff a bit to get
data for an abuse report. In the database we only store the details
users give us on sign-up and a limited backlog of payments.


2. Sweden.

3. Usually we only receive email, therefore we drop anything that has
DMCA in the subject. If they want something they need to send us a
letter or a fax or send the police. Most of the time we get complaints
for running the TPB proxy or the TOR servers.

4. PaySafe, BitCoins, PayPal, PaySon, AlertPay

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