If you have been wondering why you have received so many emails recently from companies about their privacy policies, this is due to recent EU legislation called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR gives users more rights to see the data that companies have collected on them and to control what data is collected about them in the future. This law is intended to protect the privacy rights of internet users within the EU, but because so many internet companies are now international, most have chosen to update their privacy policies for all users (even non-Europeans).
Although much of the coverage of GDPR sounds dry and dull, in fact it is a very important piece of legislation and a major step forward in improving the rights of internet users. If recent scandals such as the misuse of Facebook data by Cambridge Analytica for political ends have you thinking about digital privacy, then this legislation can help you to take control of your data.
One of the best ways that you can improve your privacy online is to use a VPN. Below we’ll explain what a VPN is and how you can use it in conjunction with the GDPR legislation to protect your privacy, and give you recommendations for the best VPNs for GDPR.
- 1 How A VPN Protects Your Privacy
- 2 How A VPN Lets You Get Around Website Blocks
- 3 Other Benefits Of Using A VPN
- 4 Top VPN Providers For GDPR
- 5 Conclusion
How A VPN Protects Your Privacy
The GDPR legislation has caused a lot of people think more seriously about the number of companies that have access to their data, thus spurring them on to tighten up their online privacy measures. Many companies (not to mention governments and cybercriminals) monitor internet activity to learn about the habits and internet use of individuals. If you want to stop companies and other outsiders from leaning information about you such as where you live, how often you go online, which sites you visit and how much time you spend on them, as well as who you communicate with online, then you need a virtual private network.
A VPN works by installing a piece of software onto your device – whether it’s your phone, tablet, or computer. This software then encrypts all of your data before it is sent over the internet. By the time your data leaves your device, it is safely encrypted so that no one else can view it or interfere with it. This encrypted data is then passed to a server run by your VPN provider where it is decrypted and sent on to its original destination. This means that when a VPN is running, you can use the internet as usual to browser web pages, watch video, play online games, or chat through text, voice, or video – but all of your data will be kept private while you do so.
If you have been taking the time to adjust your privacy settings on various websites and to delete your data from some sites because of GDPR, then now is a great time to start using a VPN as well. This will make it harder for sites to gather more information about you in the future, and it gives you control over which sites you want to be able to access information such as your real IP address or your location.
How A VPN Lets You Get Around Website Blocks
Another issue that internet users in the EU and beyond have experienced is website blocks. This happens when the EU or another government decides to prevent access to certain websites, usually for customer protection reasons. And that’s a good thing in theory – no one wants to be defrauded or to buy dangerous products online. Another reason that sites may be blocked include copyright infringement, inappropriate content, or politically controversial content.
Concealingly, EU legislation about website blocks means that sites can be blocked with no oversight, which is a worry for anyone who values internet freedom. In the past, for example, the Spanish government has used such blocking methods to prevent people from accessing websites which discuss issues around the Catalan independence movement.
If your government or the EU decides to block a web page, then all of the ISPs in the area are obliged to prevent their customers from accessing that site. When you type in the URL of a blocked site, your request is sent from your device to your ISP, which sees that the URL is on a blocked list. The ISP then redirects you to a blocked notice or simply denies the connection. Even if you try to use a different internet connection, you will still have the same problem as the site is blocked throughout the entire country.
With a VPN you can get around blocks and government censorship by connecting to a server elsewhere in the world. For example, if you are in the EU and the website that you want to access is blocked, you can connect to a server in the US or Canada. Then all of your data will be encrypted and passed through your ISP (meaning that your ISP can’t see the URL you’re accessing and so can’t block your connection) before then being routed via that server. This allows you to browse the internet as if you were physically in the country where the server is located – in this case, the US or Canada – and so you can access sites even if they are blocked in the EU.
Other Benefits Of Using A VPN
In addition to keeping your data private and letting you get around regional restrictions, there are further security advantages to using a VPN. You may not know that it can be dangerous to go on public wifi networks like those in coffee shops, as other users on the network may be able to hack your device and steal your data. With a VPN, all of your traffic is encrypted before it leaves your device so even other users on the same network won’t be able to access your data. A VPN also helps to protect you from digital attacks like phishing or vishing by disguising your real location so that data can’t be used against you.
Finally, if you play online games at a serious level then you might have been a victim of a DDoS attack, where your IP is bombarded with requests until your connection fails. A VPN keeps you safe from these DDoS attacks by hiding your real IP address.
Top VPN Providers For GDPR
When it comes to selecting a VPN provider, you’ll notice that there are hundreds of different companies to choose from. And though it might seem more efficient to use a free VPN, this is not advisable as free VPN providers often sell off data about their users or have poor security that makes you less safe. Instead, you should get a trustworthy paid VPN that meets the following key criteria:
- Excellent security policies, including the use of strong 256-bit encryption so that outsiders cannot crack your encryption and observe or steal your data
- No logging policy so that information about the sites you visit or the messages you send will never be recorded. This way, even if your VPN provider has to turn over their records to the police or government, there is no information about your internet use to be accessed
- Many servers in many different countries which will allow you to get around regional locks or censorship by connecting to a server in another country and access the internet from there
- Fast connections so that your VPN doesn’t slow you down, which is particularly important when you are streaming or downloading
- Ease of use software with support for lots of different platforms so that you can protect all of your different devices at the same time with just one VPN subscription
Taking all of these factors into consideration, here are the top VPNs that we recommend for users who are concerned about security and privacy in the wake of the GDPR legislation:
1. ExpressVPN – Best All Around
ExpressVPN is one of the VPNs that you’ll see recommended most often due to its strengths in all the most important areas: security, speed, and ease of use. Whether you’re an advanced VPN user who wants the fastest and most reliable connections or a new user who wants a simple graphical interface for the software, then ExpressVPN has you covered. The top-notch security includes features like the use of strong 256-bit encryption to keep your data safe and a no logging policy to keep your information private. And you’ll find more security options in the software such as a kill switch to prevent you from accidentally using an unsecured connection, DNS leak protection to keep your DNS use private, and an IP address checker which lets you view your IP address and confirm that your VPN is active and is hiding your real IP.
In addition to this security, ExpressVPN offers a large server network with more than 1500 servers in 94 different countries, and the connections are super fast and stable. The software is available for Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and Android, plus some games consoles and smart TVs, and there are also browser extensions available for the Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari browsers.
Read our full ExpressVPN review here.
2. NordVPN – Customisable Connections
NordVPN is great for advanced VPN users and those who want to be able to perform specific functions with their VPN such as downloading torrents, protecting from DDoS attacks, or using a dedicated IP address. The security is excellent, with strong 256-bit encryption and a solid no logging policy so that you can be sure your internet activities aren’t being recorded or monitored. Other security features in the software include the CyberSec option which avoids ads and protects you from malware, phishing, and other threats, plus a general kill switch, an app-specific kill switch, and the ability to change notification settings. With fast and reliable connections, you can easily download large files safely.
The best feature of NordVPN is its specific function servers. As well as the regular VPN servers, you’ll find specialist servers for functions like P2P downloading, anti-DDoS protection, or onion over VPN. In total, there is a huge network of servers totaling 3500 in 60 different countries. The software has an attractive and intuitive map interface and can be installed on devices running Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, Chrome OS, Android, or Windows Phone.
Read our full NordVPN review here.
3. CyberGhost – Best For New Users
CyberGhost is the VPN we recommend for new users who want a simple VPN that they can use and configure without worrying about complex technical information. If you don’t know anything about setting up or using VPNs then don’t worry – CyberGhost makes it easy. You just open up the software and then choose from the icons what you want to do – such as surfing the web anonymously, using torrent downloads anonymously, or unblocking streaming sites. Click on the option of your choice and you will be connected to an appropriate server with all of the required configuration done for you automatically.
The security is good, with the use of 256-bit encryption and a no logging policy, and the connections are fast and can be used for streaming video or downloading files. If you want to connect to a server manually then you can choose your server from a network of 1300 servers in nearly 60 countries. The software is available for iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac OS.
Read our full CyberGhost review here.
4. PrivateVPN – Ideal For Streamers
If you love to use streaming services like Netflix or Hulu, you might be frustrated that most VPNs don’t work with these websites. Fortunately, PrivateVPN does work and is the ideal VPN solution for streamers. If you want to unblock Netflix, Hulu, and more, then you can connect to any of the hundreds of servers located in 56 different countries and stream content without restrictions. By default, the VPN service uses 128-bit encryption, but there is also an option to use strong 256-bit encryption instead if you prefer maximum security. In terms of privacy, PrivateVPN keeps bandwidth logs but not traffic logs, meaning that the sites you visit will never be recorded.
PrivateVPN really excels in terms of speed. Our testing found it to be one of the fastest VPNs, with no drops in speeds or annoying bursts. This combination of fast speeds and working with Netflix and Hulu makes this VPN the ideal choice for users who stream often. The software is minimal but effective, and is available for Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Android, iOS, and Amazon Fire Stick, and can be installed as a browser extension for Chrome.
Read our full PrivateVPN review here.
5. PureVPN – Lots Of Security Features
PureVPN is more than just a VPN. As well as a VPN to keep your data private, you’ll also get access to a bundle of other security software to improve your overall digital security. To start with the key facts about the VPN: it has good security with the option for using strong 256-bit encryption, and a no content logging policy so no one can see what you have accessed online. The connections are fast enough for regular use and there are lots of different servers to choose from, totaling 750 servers in 140 different countries.
The other security features that are included are things like anti malware and anti-virus protection which prevent your device from being infected with unwanted or malicious software, and DDoS protection to keep your device safe from coordinated direct denial of service attacks. If you want to use the VPN for only certain apps, for example just for your torrent program or internet explorer, then you can use the app filtering feature. And there’s a kill switch to prevent you from accidentally sending data over an unsecured connection. The software is available for Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS, and Android TV devices, plus there are browser extensions available for the Chrome and Firefox browsers.
The recent introduction of the GDPR legislation has brought security and privacy issues to mind for lots of users in the EU and beyond. If you have been wanting to beef up your privacy and security to prevent companies, organisations, or governments from accessing data about all of your online activities, then a VPN is an essential tool in your digital arsenal. With a VPN you can prevent others from tracking you or recording your info, you can get around regional restrictions or blocks, and you can keep yourself safe from hacks and other digital attacks.
We’ve recommended some of the top VPNs that you can use to keep yourself safe. Have you tried out any of these VPNs? What was your experience with them like? Tell us about it in the comments below.