There are many reasons why you should use a VPN, and they all deserve to be marketed properly. However, VPN marketing terms can sometimes oversell or misrepresent the actual product, leading to disappointment among new users. Other times, they do a poor job of explaining what features do or represent.
It’s not necessarily out of malice, but it can hurt the credibility of VPNs as a whole. Let’s set the record straight about some of these terms.
- “World’s Fastest VPN”
- Anonymous Browsing
- Military-grade Encryption
- No Logs (or Zero Logs)
- VPN Marketing Terms – The Verdict
“World’s Fastest VPN”
So, how many “world’s fastest VPNs” are there, exactly?
When it comes to VPN marketing terms, this one is perhaps the most misleading. Why? There is no reliable way to back this statement up. In fact, many reviewers will complain about this exact thing when testing out VPN providers’ claims.
Sure, VPNs can win speed test awards – such as this one by SpeedTest. However, there is a case to be made against using a single speed test for an accurate comparison between VPNs:
- For one, this only takes into account download speeds under optimal conditions.
- Second, there is no mention of whether the tests were done on multiple hardware configurations. Nor do they mention if they were done at different times of the day (and on different connections) to see how the VPNs perform for various users.
- ISPs can rig speed test results, and Ookla (SpeedTest’s developers) have actually made a statement about this practice back in 2016. Multiple results from different speed tests would need to be analyzed to get the full picture.
Finally, there is this statement in SpeedTest’s article:
We should note that while IPVanish, Hotspot Shield and NordVPN have business relationships with OoklaⓇ, our results are independent of these relationships.
Now, we commend them for their transparency. Disclosing their partnerships goes a long way in building trust in their service. That being said, we only have Ookla’s words to go by – so the results should be taken with a grain of salt.
We don’t aim to discredit SpeedTest, nor are we saying this or that VPN isn’t as fast as advertised. All we want is for users to see beyond VPN marketing terms. After all, they kind of lose their meaning when every other provider is “the world’s fastest VPN.”
Let’s get one thing out of the way: VPNs do not keep you 100% anonymous online. It’s one of those VPN misconceptions that’s kept going because of the marketing on providers’ home pages.
Of course, this could be attributed to the brevity of landing pages. Providers can’t fully explain what this anonymity entails in such short paragraphs, but they still need to use eye-grabbing VPN marketing terms to get your attention.
- “Surf the web without a trace” – IPVanish
- “Browse anonymously” – PIA
- “Anonymous web browsing” – ExpressVPN
They all sound pretty catchy, right? Much better than “browse the web kind of anonymously” or “surf the web with some traces of cookies, web beacons, and location data.”
What do providers actually mean by “anonymously,” then? Well, using a VPN lets you hide:
- Your IP address – your device basically communicates with the Internet at large by using the IP of the VPN server you connect to. This has the benefit of hiding your approximate geographical location, making it great for privacy and unblocking region-restricted content.
- Your web traffic – VPN encryption makes your network data unreadable to outsiders, such as hackers, your ISP, and government spy agencies.
So yes, VPNs do offer a way to protect your privacy and security, but it’s still possible to be identified online thanks to some of the things mentioned above. There’s also the issue of all the information VPNs collect at sign up, such as payment details, your email, and so on.
If you are in a position that requires a high degree of anonymity (e.g. whistleblowers, journalists, etc.), you should use Tor and VPN together. Do note that this will slow down your connection significantly, but it’s the closest to “true anonymity” you can get on the Internet.
Alternatively, you may also see VPN providers offering “bank-grade encryption” in their software. For what it’s worth, at least the military does use strong encryption protocols such as those found in VPNs to safeguard their data. They don’t describe it as “military-grade,” though – that’s just marketing tactics at work.
What VPN companies actually refer to is AES 256-bit encryption, which has been approved by the NSA itself to secure “top secret” information, along with its 192-bit variant. Even the 128-bit variant of AES is perfectly reasonable for security (up to “secret”-level info, as the NSA mentions).
NordVPN uses “top-grade data encryption”, for example. Others describe it as “strong,” use the word plainly, or just mention that they use AES 256-bit to encrypt your data.
In the end, we won’t hold it against providers for using “military-grade encryption” among their VPN marketing terms. If it draws attention and makes it sound more secure in peoples’ minds, then it does its job.
No Logs (or Zero Logs)
As seen on: most providers nowadays.
For privacy purposes, a top-grade VPN provider is pretty much required to keep no logs. But what are these logs all about? Well, when you connect to the Internet without a VPN, your ISP can see and log everything you do online. They can then sell your data to third parties, which is just as creepy as it sounds.
By using a VPN, your data is encrypted and your ISP is no longer able to see or log what you do online. However, you hand over that privilege to your VPN provider – unless they have a strict no-logging policy, that is.
Read more: Explained: VPN Logging and Search Warrants
For many providers, a no-logging policy is exactly what it sounds like. They simply don’t keep any logs of your activity, meaning you can’t be exposed to warrantless seizures by oppressive governments and similar scenarios. But like the other VPN marketing terms on this list, there is a catch.
There are two types of logs providers can keep about you:
- Activity logs – the dangerous kind: your browsing history, downloaded and uploaded files, what software on your device accesses the Internet through their service. All-around intrusive.
- Connection logs – mostly harmless: your VPN data usage (for data capping purposes with free VPNs), timestamps of when you connect and disconnect to the service (to prune inactive accounts). Basically technical stuff providers need to ensure a quality product.
However, connection logs will also contain your IP address and the IP address of the server you connect to. This information, along with connection timestamps can expose you to a traffic analysis attack – which is how government spy agencies attempt to break the anonymity of Tor users.
VPN Marketing Terms – The Verdict
Are they misleading? Sometimes, yes.
Aside from that, VPN marketing is pretty harmless, if a bit confusing to newcomers. So if the marketing doesn’t help, how do you know which VPN is the real deal? Reading reviews is a good way to gauge whether the provider fits your needs. Make sure to check multiple sources so you avoid any potential biases.
A fast, “military-grade” VPN with no logs is a great place to start. But what really distinguishes the best VPNs from the rest is their ease of use, extra privacy-enhancing features, and great customer support. Honorable mention to hassle-free money-back guarantees if you didn’t enjoy their product.
Did we miss anything? Let us know what bothers you about how providers market their VPNs in the comments below, or on social media.