Right, About VPNs

What if ISPs spent all this money to be able to sell our data, but then we encrypt it all. Suckers.

If you haven’t heard, the Republican Party pushed through a change which removes the FCC from its ability to oversee how data is used from ISPs. Effectively, this would allow someone like say, Comcast, to legally sell your internet traffic records. Things like: the sites you visit and where you visit them — anything you are doing on the web which isn’t HTTPS will be known and able to be sold. Even with HTTPS where you go is still known by the ISP.

This is clearly very bad. The only way to now truly maintain internet privacy (once 45 signs this into law) — even at home — is to use a VPN. This fact has not slipped through the eyes of VPN providers.

Having spent some time using VPNs full time, I need to tell you right now: it sucks. Doesn’t matter what service you use, it’s a lessened experience. The connections are choppy at times, slow at others, and never as fast as your internet connection.

That said, there’s only two VPNs I recommend: Cloak, or Private Internet Access (PIA).

Here’s Cloak’s blog post on the changing climate:

Historically, we haven’t advocated for using Cloak full-time at home. In general, we think that you should trust your home network; if you don’t, you probably have bigger fish to fry. Alas, if this resolution becomes law, there may be no alternative. We might genuinely start telling our customers “yes, you should use Cloak at home, all day, every day”. From our perspective, that day will be an unhappy day indeed.

Indeed, there seems to be no current alternative. Cloak is a fantastic service, and one of the fastest I tested. It also has some of the best user experience of any of the apps. Cloak, for lack of a better analogy is like Apple for VPNs (so sorry, I hate these analogies). As long as you trust Cloak, and I’ve never been given reason not to trust them, then they are probably what you should use.

However, we also have to talk about Private Internet Access, because they have been all over this issue. Including taking out a full page add in the New York Times to call out 50 Senators for voting for this change. And that’s fucking well played right there.

PIA has a not great looking app, but it works. It has not great speeds, but has a ton of locations to hop through. But, if you truly want private, then PIA is among the consistently top rated VPNs out there for privacy.

I have annual subscriptions to both. My wife uses Cloak and Cloak is likely what I will use for most things. But PIA is one which I have really been able to count on, because when you turn it on it is aggressive about staying on.

I don’t think you can go wrong with either, and I know you might be tempted to go with the faster of the two, but there’s one more consideration. Cloak is $99/year, and PIA is currently $39/year. And I’ll also say in my office right now, Cloak is 10% faster. Later it might be slower, or it might be 40% faster. These things are not predictable with VPNs, but don’t think you will get full speed with either. I typically get about 50mbps with both, and my connection can handle 150mbps. So, yeah… When I say Cloak is faster, I mean during my random sampling it was usually the faster of the two connections, but not by a huge margin either. It’s faster, but it’s not nearly fast when compared with no VPN.

Best of luck, because this sucks a lot.

Update 3/30/17 @ 07:15am

Reader Chris wrote in to let me know about Freedome from F-Secure. I forget why I hadn’t tested it, but I installed and tested it this morning. It claims to be just as private, and it seems to offer an option to be even more aggressive about maintaining a VPN connection than PIA. What I can tell you is that it is the fastest option I have tested. That’s just an hour or so of testing, but it is substantially faster for me. Might be worth checking out.