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VPN logging is not all you need to consider

Luciano Hernández

28.01.20 5 min. read

While VPN services have become a popular tool to enhance user privacy in the internet, VPN logging practices have raised concern. The quality and the nature of the many available services can vary a lot. Many users are interested in investigating the services and the providers deeper than the surface. A typical question they ask is “do they log?”.

While many VPN providers state that they do not log anything, the reality in most cases is that they probably do log something. The issue here is that there are many types of VPN logging, and people tend to understand the term in a non-unified way.

But what is VPN logging? Why does it matter, and why doesn’t it?

What is logging?

Data logging by default means gathering data in a period of time. Related to internet use the data can be IP addresses, browsing history, device information, data packet sizes etc. This data is generated when you browse internet or connect a device to a network. You can check a list of some data logged about your internet use right away from your browsing history. However, a lot more than just your browsing history can be logged.

Not all logs are equal

Connection logs include data such as IP address, timestamps, bandwidth, server information etc. Some of this data can be quite essential to running the service and it can be used to improve the service. While logging is an issue, not all logging is necessarily bad.

The data logged varies by the provider. Some of it is rather impossible to avoid. For example, the service provider has to know if you are authorized to use the service, i.e. if you have paid for it. Some of this data may be used for customer support or detecting and combating malicious use of the service. Generally, these logs are considered less harmful than others. However, with the right amount of information, some actions can be connected to a user based on these logs alone.

Another type of logs is called traffic logs. This includes data like browsing history, purchases, downloads and messages. This sensitive data is typically the minimum of what people want to keep private and outside any logging practices. Some VPN providers do log these actions as well. Logging this data is considered lot more controversial, because it holds clear data about what you do in the internet. Typically, when VPN providers say that they do not log, they probably mean they don’t have traffic logs.

Your internet service provider handles your browsing data

Normally all the browsing data goes through your internet service provider (ISP). While it might not sound like an issue to many, ISPs may sell your data. Additionally, in some countries ISPs are legally required to collect and store user data and even give it to authorities. Certain sites and services, which are legal in western countries, can be illegal and blocked somewhere else. VPN can be used to bypass these restrictions and prevent ISPs from logging and eventually handing out your data.

If you use a VPN service, the one who controls your browsing data is your VPN service provider instead of your ISP. When using a VPN, you are transferring your trust from your ISP to your VPN provider. This is why many users are concerned about logging. If such logs are created, then how are they handled? What happens to your data? Can the VPN provider be trusted with the data more than your ISP?

Logs can be used to your harm

Your browsing data can be used in many ways you might not want to. Your data can be sold to marketers, acquired by different government officials. Criminals can use your data for scams, identity theft and other forms of crime.

You might think that you don’t have anything to hide. Might be so, but you have a lot to protect. You probably don’t want your passwords, messages, searches or downloads to be public. Logging your internet use increases the risk that someone you don’t want could get their hands on your data.

VPN logging is only one way to get your data

Of course, VPN providers and ISPs are just some of the parties that may be collecting and logging your data. The internet services and apps you use can do this as well. Your traffic goes through many different servers, each with the possibility of logging something about you. And to be fair, if a government official targets you for surveillance, they most likely can do it whether you had a VPN or not.

While using a VPN makes it harder to keep tabs on you, services like Google and Facebook and others can still get to your data. And usually because you grant them permission to do that. Your data can also be mined and harvested by other parties regardless if you use a VPN or not. Occasionally there are a lot of rumors that even some VPN providers mine user data or are otherwise questionable. While these accusations can be far-fetched, there isn’t always solid proof either way.

In the end, logging is only one way to get your data.

What laws govern your VPN provider?

A very important factor with VPN logging is where the service provider is located. The companies must follow the laws of their home country. As said before, these laws can obligate them to collect, store and provide data to authorities. This can potentially eliminate any privacy gained with the use of VPN.

It’s also important to notice that the lack of laws controlling collection and handling of user data can also be risky. Without any legislation, the user has to simply take the provider’s word. There may not be any proof whether their promises are true. But if there is strict legislation in their home country, you can be sure that there are consequences, should the laws be broken. With some research you can find out where the provider is located and what laws govern their practices. If not, something might be off.

F-Secure’s FREEDOME VPN

FREEDOME VPN is provided by F-Secure, which is based in Finland. Finland has some of the strongest data retention laws in the whole EU. These laws obligate us to clearly state our data use practices. They also include severe punishments for violations. You can find FREEDOME’S privacy policy here.

Additionally, Finland is not part of the 5, 9 or 14 Eyes Surveillance Alliances.

But does FREEDOME log?

As with most VPNs, FREEDOME does create connection logs. These logs are used to provide you with the service and to improve it. As stated in our privacy policy: we only analyze your communications traffic to provide you the service and to keep your data transfers clean. Your traffic is pseudonymized – we do not know what traffic is yours. FREEDOME does not create traffic logs.

We do not sell or share any logs created. This is clearly stated in our privacy policy. As we operate under Finnish and EU jurisdiction, all the information about our logging and data handling policies is available to anyone. To act against our own privacy policy, we could face serious criminal charges and penalties. Such actions would also gravely damage our reputation.

However, there is one exception to our data sharing practices. F-Secure respects lawful warrants and court orders of the jurisdictions applicable to us. We provide information to the authorities when it is required of us under law, but not otherwise.

Such occurrences include investigations and prosecutions of serious crimes and other qualified illegal activities. After all, our goal is to secure your privacy when browsing the web, not securing your anonymity when committing crimes. We carefully review the lawfulness of each request and ensure that our users’ constitutional rights to privacy are protected.

There is no one VPN to rule them all

As the quality and nature of VPNs vary, there isn’t really one solution that is the best for everyone. FREEDOME is built to keep its users safe from prying eyes, tracking, malware and malicious sites. To achieve this, it anonymously analyzes your traffic in real time and creates some logs (but not traffic logs). And if that’s not your cup of tea, we get it. You might need something else.

But keep in mind, that while it might not be the case with all the other VPN options, FREEDOME is operated under jurisdiction that clearly defines what can and can’t be done with your data.

FREEDOME is an effective and easy-to-use tool to enhance your privacy in the internet, secure Wi-Fi networks, decrease tracking and hide your IP address. FREEDOME VPN is included in F-Secure TOTAL premium cyber security package, which also includes award-winning internet security, password manager and more.

You can also try FREEDOME VPN completely free of charge.

Luciano Hernández

28.01.20 5 min. read

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