A search for “free VPN” returns nearly 3 million results on Google—a clear a sign that we’ve all been spoiled to expect internet services to be free. After all, Gmail and Facebook are both free, right?
But what most people fail to realize is that we pay for most of these “free” services by handing over our personal data so marketers and advertisers can sell stuff to us.
Even if that doesn’t bother you (although if you’re interested in VPNs, it probably does to some degree), you can probably see where I’m going with this. If a VPN claims to be “free,” just like Gmail or Facebook, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’re monetizing your traffic in some way or another—which defeats the purpose of using a VPN in the first place.
A VPN is meant to provide privacy from snoopers, corporate or otherwise, who might be monitoring your internet traffic. That’s why it’s so important to use a trustworthy VPN. You don’t want to be the sucker using nsaVPN—you know, the one that sends your data straight to government server farms.
Running a VPN costs money. If someone is pushing a free VPN service, there’s almost definitely an ulterior motive behind their offer.
Case in point: Facebook begs its mobile users to download Onavo, a data-tracking application masquerading as a “free” VPN (please, do not download it).
Other VPNs offer “free” tiers to promote their paid services. While this may sound more benign, you have no way of knowing if the VPN is tracking or selling your traffic when you use their “free” services.
It’s already very difficult to evaluate how much paid VPN services are committed to privacy and anonymity. If a VPN is offering you a service for free, that’s already a clear and unambiguous signal that privacy isn’t their number one priority.
Looking for safe VPN recommendations? Check out our curated list.