Who can track your data when using a VPN?
In many ways, we are already living in the future. With a single click, we can deliver anything we need right to our doorstep. The modern world has created many conveniences with personalized advertising, personalized offers based on location, and next day delivery. But at what cost?
In exchange for convenience, many of us trade in our privacy. However, many are beginning to realize how valuable their data actually is. With this said, more and more people are investing in VPNs for their safety. So who can see your data when using a VPN? And what exactly is the information that they can record?
What is a VPN?
A VPN creates a private connection by hiding your IP address. VPNs help protect you by hiding your browsing history, location, and devices from hackers. By encrypting your data and using an IP address that is not yours, you can browse the web more securely without it.
Related Topics: What is a VPN? How do tunnels protect privacy?
While it is a step forward to improve our privacy rights, VPNs are not perfect. VPNs have limitations that you should take into consideration when protecting yourself.
The 3 types of VPN data logs
Before we go into detail about who can see your information online, let’s take a look at the types of data collected by a VPN.
VPN providers have different policies about how much data they keep from their users, so be sure to read the finer details before downloading or purchasing.
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Depending on the country of origin, different territories have specific laws regarding data retention. For example, despite the claims on their website, VPN providers based in the US or EU will be required to register your data by their specific governing bodies.
There are three main types of data your VPN can log: usage logs, connection logs, and no logs.
Usage logs contain information such as the websites, apps, or devices you use. Connection logs will include your real IP address, which VPN IP addresses you can access, and data usage. Finally, some VPN providers will not log anything at all.
With this, we know that while most VPNs are secure, not all are completely private. Check the information your VPN logs before downloading.
But who exactly can see your data, even when using a VPN?
Who can see my data with a VPN, and what can they see?
While VPNs are useful as a first line of defense, they do not make you completely invisible or untraceable on the Internet. There are many other ways to track your online presence, which can reveal your personal information besides your IP address.
Here are some of the services that can still see your data while you’re connected to a VPN.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
Without VPNs, ISPs can access everything you do online.
While VPNs help hide your information, ISPs will still be able to see connection logs – the IP address of the encrypted VPN server, the time used, and even the amount of traffic to and from your device.
Despite a VPN, many search engines can collect information about you because you allowed them to use a uniform profile.
For example, VPN users who are signed into their Google accounts while using the Google search engine will still have information about the search history associated with them. While Google currently offers a VPN service with its Google One subscription, its credibility leaves much to be desired.
Social Media Sites
Likewise, staying logged in to social media sites such as Facebook can be used to return your browsing to you.
In fact, this also applies to all the websites you used to log in with your social media account as a single login. Regardless of your IP address, advertisers can still access data associated with your social media accounts.
If you thought a VPN could keep streamlined search history from your employer while using your company laptop, you’re wrong. Unlike private commercial networks, VPNs provided by companies often route your traffic to a network owned by the company.
Despite being away from your desk, employers have the ability to monitor activity that may conflict with company policy. For example, sending sensitive documents, viewing pornography, or downloading pirated content may alert your company’s security team. Many companies also have administrative access to your device and can view your browsing history locally.
Law enforcement agencies cannot track live and encrypted data using a VPN. However, they have other ways to access your information. If you are suspected of engaging in illegal activity or criminal behavior, federal authorities can request your connection records from your ISP to identify your VPN provider.
Law enforcement can request your data from your VPN provider. If your VPN provider does not have strict anti-logging policies, they will be required to comply and hand over your information.
Protect yourself with more than a VPN
With a VPN, the traffic between the VPN’s exit server and your final destination is still unencrypted. While tracking actions from your VPN IP address may not lead to you, other interactions along the way can. Remember that there are multiple ways to track your online usage and get back to you.
Additionally, not all VPNs are created equal. A bad VPN can be as dangerous as not having one at all. When choosing a VPN, be sure to check if they have a history of data leaks, work in countries that don’t require user data logging, and support devices you use frequently.
Related Topics: 5 Fastest VPN Service
While VPNs do a great job of adding more security to your online activities, they don’t completely guarantee your privacy. You will still need to be careful and practice standard online security measures. There is no real alternative to creating strong passwords, using special browsers, routine scanning for malware, and avoiding clicking on scam emails.
Although incredibly useful, a good VPN is only half the battle. As scammers and hackers get smarter, it has become increasingly necessary to increase our personal data privacy practices as much as possible.
Yes, VPNs can be hacked: what it means for your privacy
The news that VPN services can infiltrate the industry has stunned the industry. But is all this bad? What should you do if your VPN has been hacked?
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About the author
Quina Paterna (196 articles published)
Quina spends most of her days drinking on the beach while writing about how technology affects politics, security and entertainment. She resides primarily in Southeast Asia and graduated with a degree in Information Design.
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