Best VPNs for Privacy

VPNs protect your privacy in two key ways:

  • The encryption prevents third parties on your network from seeing your online activity. They include your internet service provider (ISP) and hackers who might be lurking to intercept you on open wi-fi hotspots.
  • Routing your connection through the VPN server hides your IP address from apps, websites, streaming services, and other destinations on the internet. This prevents them from tracking your device and its location.

But not all VPNs are equal when it comes to protecting privacy. We’ll get into what makes a truly private VPN, but if you just want a quick recommendation, here’s a summary of the best VPNs for privacy.

Best VPNs for Privacy:

  1. ExpressVPN: Our top recommendation for privacy. ExpressVPN doesn’t log any identifiable information about users or their online activity, uses strong encryption, and offers best-in-class data leak protection. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  2. NordVPN: A solid budget option with a zero-logs policy, strong encryption, and leak-proof apps.
  3. Surfshark: A good all-round VPN that protects users’ privacy.
  4. CyberGhost: Easy-to-use VPN that meets all of our privacy requirements.
  5. IPVanish: No-logs provider built with privacy in mind.

To make the cut, all of these VPNs met the following criteria:

  • Collects no identifying logs
  • Uses strong encryption
  • DNS leak protection is built-in
  • Apps have kill switches
  • Comes with a money-back guarantee

These requirements ensure users can safely access the web, torrent, and stream without being spied on by third parties.

Best VPNs for privacy

Here’s a detailed list of the top VPNs for privacy:

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN Sep 2020

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.ExpressVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

ExpressVPN goes to great lengths to ensure its users’ privacy. The company is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands beyond the jurisdiction of major spying powers. Connections are protected with 256-bit AES encryption. DNS leaks, WebRTC leaks, and IPv6 leaks are all prevented even if your connection is somehow disrupted. An optional network lock ensures that if your VPN connection drops, no data is sent over an unencrypted connection.

ExpressVPN server software runs entirely in RAM instead of hard drives, which ensures no trace of data is left behind even if one of its servers is raided. In one such instance, Turkish authorities seized an ExpressVPN server but found no identifiable information about its users, so the company has proven that it lives up to its no-logs policy.

ExpressVPN doesn’t log your internet activity, IP address, or any other identifying information. It does collect some non-identifying diagnostic information.

On top of all that, ExpressVPN boasts good speeds, servers in 94 countries, and the ability to unblock a wide range of streaming services from abroad.

Pros:

  • Keeps no identifying logs
  • Strong encryption
  • Leak protection
  • Network lock
  • RAM-only servers

Cons:

  • Slightly more expensive than rivals

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

OUR TOP CHOICE:ExpressVPN goes further than any other VPN to protect its users’ privacy. It comes with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

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2. NordVPN

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.NordVPN.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

NordVPN offers many of the same privacy protections as ExpressVPN at a much lower cost. Users get 256-bit AES encryption, protection against DNS and WebRTC leaks, and a kill switch to prevent unencrypted data from being sent if the VPN connection drops. The kill switch can be customized to cut off internet access to specific apps, such as a torrent client. Automatic wi-fi protection lets you set it and forget it when on the go, so you don’t have to remember to connect to the VPN each time you connect to an unsecured network.

NordVPN adheres to a strict zero-logs policy. Authorities have seized NordVPN servers in the past to no avail; they don’t contain any identifying information.

NordVPN is the fastest VPN we’ve tested so far, proving that security doesn’t come at the cost of speed. It unblocks most streaming services from abroad and has servers in 60 countries.

Pros:

  • Zero logs policy
  • Fastest VPN
  • Strong encryption
  • Leak protection
  • App-specific kill switch

Cons:

  • No kill switch on Android

Our score:

4.5 out of 5

PRIVACY ON A BUDGET:NordVPN is a great all-round VPN with excellent privacy protection. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full NordVPN review.

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3. Surfshark

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Surfshark.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

Surfshark keeps no traffic or connection logs about its users. It ensures no data ever leaves your device unencrypted thanks to DNS and WebRTC leak protection and a built-in kill switch. Surfshark uses 256-bit AES encryption. Perfect forward secrecy means past sessions can’t be decrypted even if the current session is somehow compromised. Automatic wi-fi protection can be enabled to ensure you never connect to the web without a VPN on unsecured wi-fi hotspots.

Surfshark offers decent speeds and unblocks a wide range of streaming services. You can connect to servers in 60 different countries.

Surfshark allows unlimited connections, making it a solid option for a family or group of housemates. It’s available for iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

Pros:

  • No logs
  • Leak protection
  • Strong encryption
  • Automatic wi-fi protection
  • Unlimited connections

Cons:

  • Occasional slow server
  • Smaller network

Our score:

4 out of 5

GREAT FOR PRIVACY:Surfshark's automatic wi-fi protection and unlimited connections make it stand out from the crowd. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full Surfshark review.

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4. CyberGhost

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Cyberghost.com

Money-back guarantee: 45 DAYS

CyberGhost lets you choose a server based on how you want to use it. Among the options are its NoSpy servers, which are owned and operated directly by CyberGhost on company premises. That means, unlike most other VPNs, users don’t have to rely on servers rented out from third-party providers.

CyberGhost uses 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch, leak protection, and perfect forward secrecy to protect every connection. The company doesn’t store any identifying logs about its users or their online activity.

CyberGhost allows up to seven simultaneous connections. Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Linux.

Pros:

  • Strong encryption
  • Leak protection
  • No identifying logs
  • NoSpy servers

Cons:

  • Parent company has checkered reputation

Our score:

4 out of 5

EASY PRIVACY:CyberGhost apps are novice-friendly and users can opt for special NoSpy servers that are owned and operated directly by the company. It comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full CyberGhost review.

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5. IPVanish

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.IPVanish.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

IPVanish is a no-logs provider with a few extra features that boost users’ privacy. IPVanish checks all the necessary boxes to be considered in our list: leak protection, strong encryption, and a kill switch. It also includes a “scramble” feature that makes VPN traffic look like normal, unencrypted traffic. You can also set your IP address to change at regular intervals to help cover your tracks.

IPVanish unblocks a few streaming services and boasts decent speeds.

IPVanish lets users connect as many devices as they want at the same time on a single plan. It’s available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire TV.

Pros:

  • Strong encryption
  • Kill switch
  • Leak protection
  • Scramble traffic obfuscation
  • IP modulation

Cons:

  • Based in USA
  • Doesn’t unblock some major streaming services

Our score:

4 out of 5

UNLIMITED DEVICES:Protect every device in your house with a single subscription, backed up by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Read our full IPVanish review.

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VPN privacy FAQ

What are VPN logs?

A VPN log contains information about a VPN connection. A VPN can log what users do online while connected to the VPN, such as their web history and downloads. Obviously, this is a violation of users' privacy, which is why every VPN we recommend has a strict no-logs policy.

In addition to online activities, a VPN can also log identifying information about the connection. We refer to these as "metadata logs," and they can contain connection timestamps, IP addresses of the user and the server they connect to, and other information. This data can be used to corroborate online activity with logs from other services and identify users, so they can be a concern as well. None of the VPNs we recommend keep identifying metadata logs.

What is a VPN data leak?

VPNs can leak certain data outside of the encrypted tunnel to the server. Common leaks can send unencrypted DNS requests, IPv6 traffic, and WebRTC traffic. This data can reveal the user's IP address, online activities, or location. We recommend VPNs that take precautions to prevent these leaks from happening.

Read more about VPN data leaks.

Can I use a free VPN to protect my privacy?

We strongly advise against free VPNs for privacy-conscious users. These providers often collect data from users and share it with third parties in order to generate advertising revenue. Even if they say they don't log, free VPNs still need to make money from users somehow.

These services also tend to lack the security of paid VPNs, such as kill switches and leak protection. A few free VPNs even act as honeypots to distribute malware to users' devices.

Lastly, free VPNs have subpar performance compared to paid VPNs. They tend to have lower speeds, poor encryption, data caps, and bandwidth limits.