We Reached Out to 180+ Services to Find the Most Transparent VPN – Only 11 Responded Back

  • Last updated May 20, 2024
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Transparency in business calls for stakeholders to openly disclose their business’s goals, performance, and operations for the general public. While it sounds plain and simple, it’s easier said than done.

For a VPN provider, disclosing as little information as possible seems to be the norm. However, it’s not entirely ethical.

Now I’m not suggesting that VPN providers should disclose their secrets; however, a little transparency about their owners, their company addresses can help a consumer make a planned decision.

NordVPN and ExpressVPN are exceptional VPN services without a doubt. However, the fact that they don’t disclose their company owners makes me a little wary of their practices.

However, to restore your faith in VPN providers, I went all out Ace Ventura on several VPN providers to see if they’d open up. In this investigative article, you’re going to find intriguing findings.

But first, let’s talk a little bit about transparency and why it’s even important.

Transparency, Why Is It Crucial For Business Success?

The term “need to know” has undergone a massive shift over the past few years. If we look at the statistics, the trend for “business transparency” has soared significantly over the past five years.

Business-transparency-google-trends-graph

With global information only a click away and social media connecting the world, we are compelled to know and share anything and everything.

Whether it be product reviews or our deepest and darkest thoughts, we share our minutiae online without even thinking twice.

Stepping into the realm of business and we don’t see the same level of transparency, at least not at the moment. However, things are changing for the good.

Since today’s consumers are savvier than the generation before, skepticism seems to be the default emotion of most consumers.

And why not.

After all, the statistics of online scams has never been higher. Take the case of Australia, the total number of scans is increasing over the years since 2015.

online-scam-statistics-statista

Source: Number of Scams in Australia from 2015-18

For businesses looking to build brand loyalty, it is absolutely crucial first to build consumer trust. And transparency seems to be the key to that.

Allow me to explain…

According to a study conducted by Label Insight, more than 94% of surveyed consumers said they were more likely to be loyal to a brand that offers transparency. In addition to that, 73% of consumers said they would pay more for a product that offered complete transparency.

Another study by Harvard Business School revealed a 17% increase in customer satisfaction and a significant 13% faster customer service when chefs and customers could transparently see each other. [Source]

That’s just a brief look into the power of transparency. It makes sense right if retailers were constantly under the radar, wouldn’t that result in better product and services?

These are enough reasons why companies around the world are improving their efforts to achieving transparency.

Take for example Buffer that introduced open salary list in order to achieve greater transparency. Companies like Whole Foods and Patagonia openly disclose their product procurement methodologies and their supply chains.

 

VPN Transparency & Why You Should Be Concerned About It?

Why-is-VPN-transparency-important

When it comes to VPN services, not knowing who’s running the show or where the company is located, can be somewhat detrimental to your privacy.

Hypothetically speaking, imagine if a VPN listed its location in a privacy-friendly country, but in reality, operating in a country with extensive data retention or surveillance laws. If your VPN leaks, your intimate data could be at the risk of being intercepted by the 5, 9 and 14 eyes alliances.

As a savvy VPN consumer, it never hurts to do a bit of background checking before purchasing any VPN subscription.

Here’s what you should be looking out for:

Transparency Report

Transparency report is one piece of document you should absolutely read. Transparency reports are published on a reoccurring basis by the VPN provider.

This document quantifiably highlights all the warrants, subpoenas and other requests for information by government agencies over a set period of time (6 or 12 months) and how the company dealt with them.

More specifically, whether the specific VPN provider responded to the requests and what information is disclosed, the document also specifies the number of requests, amount and the type of data handed over to the requesting authorities.

CyberGhost is among the very few VPNs that offer detailed and updated transparency reports.

If the VPN provider you’re looking to purchase doesn’t offer a transparency report, they might actually be complying with disclosure requests.

Because let’s face it, if a VPN provider isn’t disclosing any requests, there is no reason for the company not to disclose their transparency reports.

We consider all these above-mentioned factors while performing our extensive VPN review process.

People Behind the Company

As I mentioned earlier, it is also important to know who’s running the show. For a VPN service, it can be very helpful to know whose overseeing the activities of a company. Are all the stated policies of the company being properly met?

For instance, Avast Secure Line VPN discloses a complete and transparent list of most of its senior leadership team, including their CEO. However, not all VPN providers are this transparent.

Some VPN providers even disclose a complete list of all of their profiles on LinkedIn. In fact on CyberGhost’s LinkedIn page, you can even view the full profiles of many of their employees.

Same goes for TunnelBear as well. If you look up TunnelBear’s LinkedIn page, you’ll find a ton of profiles of people working there.

But why is it even important to know who’s behind the company? Well, it helps to know who to blame or point fingers at when things go wrong.

For instance, when the whole Hotspot shield targeted ad scandal surfaced, The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held Hotspot Shield CEO David Gorodyansky accountable mishandling user data. [Source]

Where the Company Is Located

Location matters. If a VPN provider is located in a data hogging jurisdiction, there’s no point in purchasing it. You see, every country has its own set of data retention laws.

For instance, the UK’s Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 requires communication companies to retain communications data and make it available to law enforcement agencies when required.

Similarly, Australia’s Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act 2015 mandates telecommunication providers and ISPs to retain copies of telephony, Internet and email metadata of users for two years without a warrant.

Since you’d want to secure your data, you’d want a VPN service that isn’t located in a data-hungry jurisdiction or isn’t required to keep VPN logs by the governing laws of the country.

These are just some of the things any VPN user should be made aware of. If your VPN provider isn’t disclosing such information, they aren’t transparent with their customers.

My Research Methodology

VPN-transparency-research-methadology

To see which VPNs actually disclose their company information, I asked multiple VPN providers in the industry a series of questions. While some answered all of my questions, I’m still waiting for a couple them to respond. I’ll update this article with other responses as well in the future.

Here’s what I asked:

  1. What is your company’s official location and address?
  2. Does your VPN service publish Transparency/Clearance reports to disclose any information that is required by the governments? If yes, how often? (Please provide a URL or a PDF file, if available).
  3. If there are no published transparency/clearance reports, what are the reasons?
  4. Has your VPN service ever been audited by the third-party security firms? If yes, when it was last audited? (Please provide a URL or a PDF file, if available).
  5. If not, then what are the reasons for not being audited?
  6. Who are the owners behind your company and where are they based?
  7. Are there any investors backing the company? If yes, is this information publicly available for general users? (Please provide a URL, if available)
  8. How many people are there on your Board of Directors? Who are they?

Anyways, without further ado, here are all the answers of the providers that responded to my questionnaire.

Can’t find what you’re looking for, use the super handy filters below…


List of VPN Providers that Offer Transparency Reports

  1. CyberGhost
  2. Private Internet Access
  3. AceVPN
  4. Avast Secure line
  5. AzireVPN
  6. Betternet
  7. HideMyAss
  8. Hotspot Shield
  9. IVPN
  10. OVPN
  11. TunnelBear

 

List of VPN Providers That Have Conducted Independent Audits

  1. TunnelBear security audit
  2. Mullvad security audit
  3. Surfshark browser extension audit
  4. NordVPN no-log policy audit (Not publically disclosed, however, you can view it if you log on to NordVPN’s website)
  5. VyprVPN’s audit
  6. ExpressVPN security audit

 

Wrapping up!

Businesses weren’t too transparent in the past. Supply chains and business operations were mostly kept out of the eyes of consumers.

However, with consumers demanding a peek into the inner workings of mainstream businesses, companies from all domains have molded their business methodologies.

This change has certainly also reflected in the VPN industry. VPN Providers not only openly disclose their transparency reports, but even more insightful information as to what kind of servers they offer (Virtual or Physical).

Not only that, with the current trend of business transparency, VPN providers are more open to answering business related queries, that would be have been considered a taboo, only a few years ago.

So what’s the take away here? Do a bit of research before you purchase a VPN. More appropriately, do a bit of background checking. You’d be surprised by what you may find.