You Probably Don't Need a VPN

Author Max Niederman
Published 2022-07-08

A brief explanation of what VPNs are useful for, and why most people don’t need one.

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen at least one VPN advertisement before. Almost all of them claim to improve “privacy” and “security” for their users. These claims can be true, but they are intentionally misleading.

For the vast majority of users, a VPN is useless. All a VPN does is tunnel your internet traffic through their network, hiding it from your ISP and masking your IP address from its destination. But most traffic you use is already encrypted with HTTPS, so in these cases a VPN makes no difference.

It does not, however, protect your privacy from websites that you use. Even if you hide your IP address, they can still fingerprint your browser or use any number of methods to deanonymize you.

For the vast majority of users, there are only two reasons to use a VPN:

And obviously, a VPN will do nothing to hide you from governments. Almost all VPNs keep (and possibly sell) logs of your traffic, and the government can and will subpoena those logs. You should be very wary, even if a VPN claims to keep no logs.

Of course, even if your VPN really does keep no logs, a government would still easily be able to deanonymize you some other way, unless you are extremely careful. If you’re interested in protecting your privacy from motivated governments, I recommend that you give up, particularly if you live in a Five Eyes country.