Are VPNs Still Effective? The Good and Bad News

VPNs will protect your privacy online. They’ll make you anonymous—keeping you safe from the big bads of the digital world. They’ll even unblock streaming content—letting you watch Orange is the New Black even if it’s normally not available in your country. 

Or so we’re told. But with VPNs becoming less marginal and more mainstream, do these benefits still ring true? 

Key Takeaways

  • VPN privacy and security is good. But this depends on the provider you choose.
  • VPNs are now centralized, creating a conflict of interest between privacy and profit. 
  • Several VPNs have been caught exposing or selling user data.
  • Streaming platforms are cracking down on VPN use.
  • dVPNs have emerged as a potential solution to VPN security concerns. 

VPN Privacy – Is it Still as Good as Ever?

Let’s start with the obvious. VPN privacy is, for the most part, solid. Top companies like NordVPN and ExpressVPN encrypt data effectively. They’ll hide your location, protect you from snooping and make your online activity anonymous.

This doesn’t tell the whole story, though. VPNs were once niche products built to serve the end user, but with popularity reaching a fever pitch, they’ve passed from the hands of the many to the hands of huge corporate entities. 

Since 2017, global corporations like Kape Technologies have acquired several popular VPN services like CyberGhost VPN, Private Internet Access, Zenmate and, most notably, Express VPN.

To make matters worse, the corporation also purchased several VPN review sites. Concerningly, many Kape-owned products have soared up the rankings since the company purchased these review sites. 

Why does this matter? 

This raises concerns. If VPNs are now as corporate as the corporations they were built to protect against, there exists a conflict of interest between profit and privacy. If making money is the main goal, where do the user’s needs fit into the picture? 

Many popular VPN options like Opera VPN have been caught selling user data—the exact opposite of what any reputable VPN should be doing.

Another company, SuperVPN, was recently accused of leaking over 360 million user data records online. 

As you can see, while VPN security is strong, the VPN providers themselves are the main threat to user privacy. Even with leading providers, you’re still relying on their word that they aren’t selling your data. This means it’s impossible to be absolutely sure that a company isn’t using your data for their own gain.

What About Geo-Restricted Content? Do VPNs Still Work?

Time was when you could watch anything you liked from around the world with a VPN, but Amazon Prime and Netflix are working hard to put an end to users watching geo-restricted shows. 

VPNs disguise IPs to make it harder for streaming platforms to know which country a user is based in. But, because VPNs have a limited number of IPs that they provide to users, streaming platforms are starting to catch on and block specific IPs, locking users out of content. 

Fortunately, many of the top VPNs will still work to bypass Netflix’s detection systems. NordVPN is still a solid choice in this regard even if it doesn’t work in every country. 

The problem is that the streaming platforms aren’t intent on slowing down. In the future, we may see more VPNs getting caught and blocked by platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

As such, the answer to whether watching geo-restricted content still works is a rather unsatisfactory one – “yes, at times, for now”. 

The Effectiveness of VPNs – In Summary

At the end of the day, a VPN’s effectiveness depends on the provider. If you choose a reputable solution, you’ll usually be fine. Still, you’re relying on the VPN provider’s word that they aren’t using your data for their own purposes, so it’s best to exercise caution and do your research. 

The concern with VPNs is that they’ve become centralised—that much we know. So, let us end by posing an interesting question: If centralisation is a problem for VPNs, does the decentralized web hold the solution?

Does Web3 Hold the Answer? 

Perhaps the most exciting development we’ve seen in quite some time is the decentralized VPN (dVPN). 

DVPNs like Orchid and Portals offer a different way to keep your online activity private and anonymous. They rely on a ‘peer-to-peer’ network. That means that traffic goes through an independent network of interconnected computers rather than going through the servers of one company. 

That’s good for a few reasons. 

  • It means no one company has power over your data. 
  • It ensures no one can collect your data. There simply isn’t any data to collect. 
  • It makes it almost impossible for any entity to block your IP (it looks exactly the same as regular residential traffic). 

We’re huge fans of dVPN. While it may be a long while before we see them hit the mainstream, we believe their time in the spotlight is bound to come soon. 

Are VPNs Still Effective? The Good and Bad News was last updated May 21st, 2024 by Taj Livingston