An illustration of the best free VPN.

What factors you should consider when looking for the best free VPN service

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the rush to digitalization. Daily activities that once required in-person attendance, like classes, conferences, and even family gatherings, are being held online.

While this increasingly internet-mediated life has made many events more accessible to more people, it has also introduced new security and privacy concerns. The more time we spend online, the more personal data we expose to internet service providers, online trackers, and hackers. Your data is even more at risk(new window) if you live in a country with limited privacy laws.

This article will discuss why everyone, from the casual internet user to the online business owner, should use a virtual private network(new window) (VPN). We’ll explain how a VPN protects you, why you should only use VPNs with strict no-log policies, and how you can find the perfect free VPN service to protect your privacy. 

How does a VPN protect your online privacy?

Simply put, a VPN connects your device, be it a computer, phone, or tablet, to a VPN server via an encrypted “tunnel” that prevents malicious actors, network administrators, or internet service providers from monitoring your online browsing. This VPN server then connects you to your desired website, preventing the website from seeing your device’s IP address and location.

By using a VPN, you can secure your browsing history, downloads, financial information, and any other online activity from potential hackers and government surveillance(new window). You will also protect yourself from online trackers that want to show you invasive, targeted ads. 

VPNs also improve your device’s security against several types of cyberattacks, including: 

A VPN encrypts your internet connection, making it exceedingly difficult for hackers to covertly monitor your browsing or alter the communications between your device and the website.

Learn more about how a VPN protects you(new window)

Are there any risks in using a free VPN over a paid option?

Yes, using an untrustworthy VPN could leave your data even more vulnerable than not using a VPN at all. There are many examples of untrustworthy free VPNs that have abused their users’ data, like Hotspot Shield(new window), which had “undisclosed data sharing practices.” A VPN needs to generate revenue to pay for its servers and app development, which means they need to bring money somehow. Since free VPNs cannot charge their users, they will often sell your browsing data to third parties.

A VPN can do this because when you connect to any VPN, the VPN provider can see the same kind of data that your ISP could when not using a VPN. The VPN takes over the responsibility of connecting you to the website you want to visit and can see all of your browsing activity. That is why it is essential you know who is running any VPN service you consider. 

The country your VPN is based in also matters a great deal. There are hundreds of popular free VPNs based in China(new window), where legal privacy protections are minimal. Chinese authorities can force any company to share its data. While not as extreme as China, other countries, like Australia, the UK, and the US, have adopted anti-encryption or data retention laws that undermine the privacy protection a VPN could provide. 

Finally, some free VPNs(new window) will not undermine your security or privacy, but they limit how much browsing you can do to force you to upgrade to a paid plan. This makes it difficult to rely on them to protect your privacy.

How do you find the best free VPN?

Now that you know some of the risks of using an untrustworthy VPN, we will discuss what you should look for before deciding to use a free VPN(new window).

A no-logs policy

Before you use any VPN, you should read their privacy policy to make sure they have a no-logs policy. If a VPN does not explicitly state that it does not keep any logs of user activity, do not use it. If there is a no-logs policy mentioned, you can be reasonably certain it’s true. Companies that are based in a country covered by the GDPR (like Proton VPN) must accurately and fully disclose the data they collect from their users. If a company’s privacy policy is misleading or untruthful, it can face a fine of up to €20 million.

No ads

As mentioned earlier, free VPNs often rely on advertising to generate revenue. If you’re using a free VPN, there’s a chance you’ll be hit with a steady stream of pop-up ads, which is not only annoying but could also slow down your connection speed. The presence of ads on a free VPN also poses a serious threat to your privacy, as there’s a chance that your VPN provider is collecting your data and selling it to third parties.

Open source and audited

VPN apps have privileged access to your device and your online activity, which means you should make sure any app does what it claims to do. This is difficult with most VPN apps, as they keep their code secret to maintain “security through obscurity.” Not only does this make it hard to trust these apps, but it is a flawed approach to security that makes it more difficult to find and fix vulnerabilities.

On the other hand, open-source code means that your code has been shared with the public, providing security through transparency. Security researchers and the global security community can inspect how open source code implements encryption and handles your data, giving you more assurance that a VPN is adhering to its privacy policy. 

Legal jurisdiction

As mentioned above, when you use a VPN, it essentially replaces your internet service provider, in the sense that your browsing activity becomes subject to the laws of the country your VPN is based in. This can make a significant difference in how secure your VPN is. If your VPN is based in China, it means that the Chinese government can force it to hand over your records any time it pleases. If it is based in a country that is a signatory to the Five, Nine, or 14 Eyes intelligence-sharing agreements(new window), your data could be subject to invasive FISA court rulings(new window) or Australia’s Access and Assistance Bill(new window).

VPNs based in countries with strong legal privacy protections, like Switzerland, Sweden, or Iceland, are more secure because those governments respect the right to privacy.

Why Proton VPN is your best choice for a free VPN

There are many free VPNs, but we designed Proton VPN specifically to meet the rigorous privacy and security standards outlined above. 

  • Proton VPN enforces a strict no-logs policy, which is clearly stated in our privacy policy(new window).
  • All Proton VPN apps are open source and audited(new window), so you can see what IT security experts think of Proton VPN or verify its code yourself. 
  • We will never serve you ads. Our free servers are fully funded by revenue from our paid plans.
  • Proton VPN is located in Switzerland — a country well-known for its neutrality and data privacy laws(new window) — so you will never have to worry about being secretly surveilled or logged. 
  • Our unique VPN Accelerator(new window) technology ensure you get the maximum posible speeds (up to 400% faster) when connected to our free servers in the United States, Netherlands, and Japan no matter geoghraphically far away from them you are located.

Additionally, unlike many of our competitors, you know who runs Proton VPN. We are transparent about who is running our company and where we are based. We also have a proven track record in the privacy world as the developers of Proton Mail(new window), the world’s largest secure email service.

Learn more about how Proton VPN’s Free plan is different(new window)

Everyone can protect their privacy with Proton VPN for free

A VPN is an essential tool for internet users in 2022. Many citizens don’t think it’s important to mask their internet activity, but they fail to consider that we don’t know how our data will be used in the future. From government surveillance, advanced hacking, and propaganda campaigns, there is a lot at stake if your information lands in the wrong hands. 

The good news is that you can use Proton VPN’s Free plan to protect your online browsing. It has no data limits, no privacy-invading ads, and follows a strict no-logging policy. Our mission is to defend everyone’s security, privacy, and freedom, which is why we will always provide a Free VPN plan. 

If you believe in this mission and want to create an internet that puts people first, consider signing up for a paid plan. These plans enable us to develop new tools and support our Free plan.

You can follow us on social media to stay up to date on the latest Proton VPN releases:

Twitter(new window) | Facebook(new window) | Reddit(new window) | Instagram(new window)

To get a free Proton Mail encrypted email account, visit proton.me/mail(new window)

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