Looking for a VPN that won't track and store data on you? Many VPNs claim to keep no logs on their users, but what does that really mean? In this guide, we take a look at VPN zero-logs claims and which VPN services truly keep no logs.
What are the best no-logs VPNs?
These are the best VPNs that do not keep logs or track users:
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VPNs are extremely versatile tools that are useful for many things. This includes things like watching US Netflix from abroad, defeating state censorship, overcoming blocks at work, and preventing tracking by websites and commercial WiFi hosts.
But, most importantly, VPNs are primarily used to provide privacy while online. And if you value your privacy, then you'll want a VPN that doesn't keep logs.
Unfortunately, the term "no-logs VPN" and "zero-logs VPN" are often abused by VPN providers as a marketing gimmick and cause misunderstandings with customers. The term has regrettably been watered down so much over time that it's become difficult to know which VPN providers truly uphold their no-logs claims.
For this reason, we have put this guide together to examine what VPN providers really mean when they say they keep no logs and discuss why and when such claims can be trusted. We have also included in this guide our list of recommended no-logs VPN providers that we know can be trusted to never keep logs of what their users do online.
For a provider to be eligible for recommendation in our top no-logs VPN list, we first have to confirm that the provider is truthful in its no-logs claims. After we have confirmed this, we also check that the service provides:
- Privacy and security
- Speeds fast enough for streaming, gaming, and downloading
- Good value for money
Now that we have covered the criteria for our list, let's take a close look at our top no-logs VPN recommendations.
The best no-logs VPNs in 2021
Want to know which VPNs offer the best no-logs service in 2021? Look no further! Below, you'll find our in-depth analysis. Keep reading for all the details, or visit our comprehensive VPN review pages for even more information.
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What are VPN logs?
Simply put, VPN logs are a record of customers' activity while using a VPN service. But not all logs are necessarily bad, or harmful, to users, and the reality is that it's all but impossible for a VPN to keep no logs at all. Even the strictest no-logs providers need a way of knowing when customer subscriptions have expired and when they require renewal, for example.
We take a closer look at the different types of logs that VPN service might keep, below. We'll also discuss whether these logs are normal and necessary to keep the service functioning, or if they are, in fact, a risk to a users' privacy.
Types of VPN logs
The kinds of logs either an ISP or VPN service can keep about users' internet usage (not including customer account information) can be broadly divided into two types of VPN logs: usage logs and connection logs.
Usage logs make up a record of the websites you visit, basically. ISPs frequently keep these sorts of records and are often even required by law to do so – though these requirements will usually come with a set time limit for how long the logs should be kept.
No VPN services openly admit to keeping usage logs, despite the fact that the claim sometimes contradicts the laws of the country in which they're based. For example...
In the UK
ISPs (and VPN providers, which is a good reason to avoid UK-based VPN services) are required by law to log this information and store it for 12 months in a way that is accessible to a wide range of government departments.
In the US
ISPs have successfully lobbied Congress to sell or share customers' detailed web browsing history to advertisers and partner companies.
Connection logs are also known as metadata logs, although the UK government abuses this term by classing web browsing history as "metadata".
A full set of connection logs includes the following information:
- The IP address the connection was made from.
- When the connection was started.
- When the connection was finished (which together are often referred to as a timestamp).
- How much bandwidth you used while connected.
Crucially, these logs do not include websites you connect to (unless you are the UK government). Though they provide more than enough information to risk compromising your privacy.
The danger connection logs pose should not be underestimated. Every known case where somebody was caught performing criminal activities while using a VPN to conceal the fact, was because of VPN providers analyzing its connections logs and handing over the results to the police.
Note: Unscrupulous VPN services can claim to be "no-logs" providers because they do not collect usage logs. However, they actually log a lot of connection information, and we consider these claims entirely misleading.
It's important to understand that all networks generate logs in real-time as a necessary byproduct of their operation – VPNs included. However, these logs still exist even if they're instantly deleted (e.g. are sent directly to a /dev/null file).
This means they can always be monitored as they are created (i.e. in real-time). Even the strictest no-logs VPN service will monitor logs in real-time when network issues need to be resolved or abuse identified.
Most "no-logs" VPNs keep these real-time logs for a short time, which is understandable since having some information about their own systems help VPN companies provide the services they provide.
We consider this to be perfectly acceptable within reason. If real-time logs are only kept for a few minutes or deleted the moment a session ends, then it only poses a negligible risk to a users' privacy, and shouldn't really be cause for concern.
Almost all VPN companies rent servers from third-party server providers. So, even if the VPN provider keeps no logs, it is likely that the server centers in which the VPN servers are located do. Unlike VPN companies, server centers have no obligation to protect users' privacy.
This isn't ideal, regardless of how you view the situation. A good VPN company that truly cares about the privacy of its users can still do a great deal to mitigate the problem, though.
Server logs are an issue that certainly needs consideration, but it's the logs that are kept (or that can be kept) by a VPN provider that pose the greatest privacy threat to its users. Therefore, the jurisdiction in which a VPN company is based can have a huge impact on its ability to protect your privacy.
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What is a no-logs (zero-logs) VPN?
So, we've come to the burning question – and there's indeed a great deal of disagreement surrounding it! Can a VPN truly call itself no-logs if it deletes all logs a few minutes after a session ends? What about if it logs timestamps and bandwidth, but does not associate any of this data with users' IP addresses or account details? Do anonymized and aggregated usage statistics count as logs? These questions are by no means simple to answer but must be considered carefully when establishing what actually constitutes a genuine no-logs VPN service.
As far as ProPrivacy.com is concerned, a no-logs VPN is a VPN service that keeps no identifiable logs that can be used to tie a customer to their internet activity when using the VPN service.
Similarly, if some logs are kept, but for so short a time that we can't really see how they could be used to compromise a user's privacy, then we are also happy to classify a VPN as "no-logs."
Why should I use a no-logs VPN?
Your internet provider (ISP) keeps detailed records of how you interact with its service. When you use a VPN, your internet provider is blocked from seeing the content of your data (because it is encrypted), and what you get up to on the internet (as this is shielded by the VPN server, which acts as a proxy).
Your VPN provider, however, can now see this information instead. This includes the IP addresses of individual web pages and even the contents of your data on sites that are not protected by HTTPS.
Unlike ISPs, which are often required to hand over their logs to the government, almost every VPN service promises to protect your privacy, at least to some extent. But only a no-logs VPN can really be trusted to keep such a promise when push comes to shove, simply because it cannot hand over information that it plainly doesn't have…
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Will a VPN that keeps no-logs make me anonymous?
No. A VPN provides its users with privacy, not anonymity. This is a crucial distinction that needs to be made, and it's actually a common misconception that VPNs offer anonymity. That's not what they're actually providing. No matter its usual logging policy, a VPN can start logging at any time and begin matching users with their internet activity. Unfortunately, many VPN services are not always entirely honest about the logs they keep when it comes to historical data, too.
A good VPN will provide a high level of privacy and protection against a wealth of blanket internet surveillance with the least impact on your own personal experience. A VPN will also keep you out of trouble when torrenting, but you should not rely on them to protect you if you commit a serious crime.
Journalists, political dissidents, whistleblowers, and those whose life or liberty relies on true anonymity should use Tor instead.
Logging can always be turned on
A VPN provider may be forced to begin keeping real-time logs, instead of discarding them, no matter how fanatical it is about privacy. And if put under enough pressure, it will. Nobody working for a VPN provider will want to risk going to jail just to protect your criminal activities, after all!
So why all the fuss about using a no-logs VPN?
Generally speaking, a VPN's no-logs policy is more concerned with professionalism than an absolute guarantee that you'll never get into trouble.
If a VPN service has promised to improve its users' privacy, then it should be designed from the ground up to do just that. Keeping no logs that can compromise users' privacy is one of the most basic building blocks of any such design.
Logs are the antithesis of privacy. A VPN that keeps logs has no business claiming it can protect your privacy when using the service.
How to be sure your VPN doesn't keep logs
At the present time, we simply have to take providers at their word or pay attention to the increasing number of independent audits that set out to test this. Here at ProPrivacy.com, we hope such audits become common throughout the industry as they have the potential to establish a level of transparency that frankly does not exist today.
Always read the VPN's Terms of Service and Privacy Policies
Checking the ToS and Privacy Policies of any VPN you consider using is an important step. A lot of VPNs will be happy to make bold and generalized "no-logs" claims on their home page, but will be quick to qualify these claims in the small print.
Take a look at our full VPN reviews, in which our experts review each VPN providers' ToS and Privacy Policies so you don't have to!
Warrants and court orders requiring companies to hand over customer details are usually accompanied by gag orders, which prevent the company from alerting its customers that something is amiss.
In order to reassure customers that something like this has not happened to them, some VPNs operate warrant canaries. For a detailed discussion on what these are and whether they are effective, please see Are Warrant Canaries Useful?
Are there free no-logs VPNs?
You'll find a lot of zero-logs VPNs offering a free option. Be wary, though. These services often come with limitations that their premium counterparts lack. Expect sluggish speeds and a reduced selection of servers. Unfortunately, this means unblocking videos abroad, torrenting and online gaming is off the table.
However, if you are just after a VPN to keep you secure while browsing the web, then a free VPN might be the answer.
The best free no-logs VPNs
Below we have listed some free VPN services that we know don't keep any logs. But, if you decide to pick another free service, we recommend you exercise extreme caution. Many free services claim to be secure, but they are often anything but.
ProtonVPN is a no-logs VPN from the makers of ProtonMail, so the company has pedigree when it comes to privacy. The company is based in Switzerland and it operates a fast service with servers located all around the globe. Although, on the free plan you may find speeds become restricted at peak times.
To learn more, check out our ProtonVPN review.
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Hide.me is a Malaysian-based zero-logs VPN provider that offers feature-rich apps for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. So, it's the perfect pick if you want to protect several devices at once. On the free plan, you get a 10GB allowance each month and the choice of 5 free servers.
To learn more, check out our Hide.me review.
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Windscribe is a Canadian provider with easy-to-use apps for all major platforms, including a browser extension for Chrome, making everyday browsing a real breeze. On the free plan, you get a 10GB monthly data allowance and 11 free servers.
To learn more, check out our Windscribe review.
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No log VPN overview
There are no guarantees, but you can generally assume that a no-logs VPN cares a great deal more about your privacy than a provider that does keep logs. No-logs VPNs will go the extra mile to protect your privacy – which is more than can be said for your ISP – and most will go even further in this regard than necessary.
A key part of which, when it comes to VPNs, is keeping no logs that can compromise its users' privacy. If you need a very high level of anonymity, then use Tor, but the rest of us are spoiled for a choice when it comes to great no-logs VPN services...
Now that you are armed with all the information you need about VPN logs, and which providers promise not to keep any, let's review our top picks:
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[[post-object type="accordion" question="Do UK ISPs keep logs?" answer="All UK ISPs are required to keep detailed logs for at least 12 months (and no more than 24 months) as per the Investigatory Powers Act that was passed in 2016. These logs include what we would term 'usage logs' i.e. a record of all the websites you visit.
All the major UK ISPs are known to comply with the logging requirements specified in the IPA, but the government has yet to launch any real concerted action aimed at enforcing the law. So, smaller ISPs and VPN services could feasibly continue to ignore the IPA's logging requirements." /]]
[[post-object type="accordion" question="Is an offshore no-logs VPN more private?" answer="It certainly can be! Using an offshore VPN service makes it harder for your government or police force to serve a warrant or subpoena requiring the provider hand over the logs it has, or even to begin logging if it doesn't already. However, you shouldn't rely on this to protect you in this hyper-connected world. It's more important to use an offshore VPN if you live somewhere with mandatory data retention laws, seeing as it'll allow you to pick a VPN based in a country where there is no requirement to keep logs." /]]
[[post-object type="accordion" question="Has anyone been arrested for using a no-logs VPN?" answer="There have been previous incidents of VPNs that claim to keep no logs handing over logs of their users internet activity to the police. Of course, this makes it hard to trust any service at face value, but this article will walk you through what providers mean when they boast that they don't keep logs, and how to spot inconsistencies in these claims." /]]