Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, are data centers that allow their owners to create a private network on top of the public internet. If you have access to one of these VPN-datacenters, you can connect your computer directly inside this data center and sit behind their IP address(es) with data sent over encrypted connections.
VPNs are used by many people every day as privacy tools for web browsing, but they are commonly misunderstood. This article will explore some common misunderstandings about what privacy measures are implemented by using a normal VPN versus what is actually possible with the current state of technology.
In late November 2017, a DMCA notice from a production company to a pirate site included a list of IP addresses that allegedly belonged to pirates. The curious thing was that these IPs all seemed to be streaming the newest season of “Game of Thrones” using IPVanish VPN.
This incident sparked some interest in whether or not VPNs such as IPVanish can keep users anonymous and private while they illegally stream media content via these platforms. There are even claims that companies like Netflix use geo-location data gathered by intermediaries such as MaxMind to pinpoint where their customers live and cancel their subscriptions. Thus, even if you manage to mask your identity and access US Netflix with a VPN service (for example), it may only be a matter of time before your account gets blocked.
However, although it may be true that copyright trolls are using the information they gather to target pirates, there is also evidence that VPN providers aren’t selling or sharing user data with third parties. IPVanish for example has stated several times on their official blog that they keep no logs of any kind, which means they cannot hand over any personal information about their users to outside authorities. It’s important to remember, however, that this doesn’t make them immune from lawsuits should the copyright holders go after them directly.
VPN testing reached out to IPVanish for further clarification and received the following statement: “IPVanish operates under US jurisdiction where DMCA notices are not applicable by default.” – vpntesting
“As a US-based company, we are not subject to the DMCA nor do we comply with requests that originate from foreign governments or entities. We block outgoing connections to port 25 for mail servers only as a load mitigation technique which is common across all providers.”
“IPVanish does not monitor user activity nor maintain logs of our users’ online activities. With that said, copyright holders will have no way of knowing who was using IPVanish at any given time.”
Their full statement can be found here.
As you can see, it’s pretty hard to say whether or not VPNs actually help protect your privacy when you’re breaking the law by streaming pirated content. One thing is certain though, companies are definitely looking into ways to stop such practices (including VPNs) and they won’t rest until they succeed.
In conclusion, if you’re streaming copyrighted content via a VPN service, the only thing you can be sure of is that your VPN provider likely won’t sell or share your personal information with anyone. That in itself is good news for privacy-conscious users, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s no way for copyright holders to find out who you are and send you a legal notice. For all we know, these companies may also be using geo-location data gathered by third parties against their users as well.