Buying a virtual private network (VPN) can really come in handy in more than one way. Apart from a large number of users being over the moon since they can access certain restricted content with the help of this service, there is also a large number of users happy to be able to hide their online activities from prying eyes. Click this to learn more about VPNs.
Privacy has always been rather important to everyone on the World Wide Web. Anonymity, on the other hand, is not that crucial for the regular person. That part concerns some people more than others, but there’s one thing that everyone has in common when it is in question. Usually, everybody thinks that they are completely anonymous online once they get a VPN. Is that really so, though?
This cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. There are ways to help you actually be anonymous and then there are ways that fail to provide you with that option. Before I get to explaining privacy and anonymity issues and solutions regarding virtual private networks, we will first need to make sure that you know how virtual private networks actually work. Let us start with that.
How VPNs Work
One of the very first purposes of virtual private networks was to protect you from unreliable internet connections. Say you were working in a coffee shop and you need to connect to a public network. Since those public networks can be rather undependable and connecting to them means that you are, in a way, agreeing to reveal your information to everyone, people had to find a way to protect their data, and they found it.
What they found, of course, is a VPN. Using virtual private networks allowed them to stay safe and protected from any third parties that might have been able to access their information previously. Today, however, that’s hardly the only use of virtual private networks. There’s much more to these services.
Basically, they work by connecting your smart device to another server on the World Wide Web and allowing you to browse the internet and do anything you want using the connection of that particular server. The idea is that you and the server you connect to are the only ones who are aware of the things that you are browsing, while nobody else can follow your trace. As you can see, that goes a long way in protecting you and your browsing habits.
In addition to that, people all over the world use these services in order to be able to watch certain content that’s usually restricted in their area. For example, if you want to watch Netflix or something similar, but that’s limited in your country, there’s an easy way to bypass the restrictions. You simply connect to a server from a country in which it isn’t restricted and you act as if you were located in that very country. That allows you to watch whatever you want, without having to worry about any limitations.
Is It Really Anonymous?
I’ve noticed quite a few VPN providers claim that using their services means that you’ll be completely anonymous online. More often than not, those claims are made without any proofs. Are they, however, correct? Are you really completely anonymous if you use a virtual private network, or is this just a providers’ way to attract more people?
Now, I know that some people might not be that worried about anonymity, but even they deserve to know what things are like. Don’t even get me started on those who value anonymity very much, such as journalists, for example. There are individuals out there who need to do certain searches for which they’d rather stay hidden. Then, there are those who would like to do some torrenting and they want to avoid being logged.
There’s one question that’s bothering all of them. That’s, of course, the question of anonymity. It’s not like you can simply rely on someone saying that your browsing history will be perfectly private when you connect to a VPN. Even when providers make such claims, you need to be careful and check things out for yourself before trusting those claims.
One thing in which you will definitely be private has to do with your location. Naturally, when you connect to a server from a different country, you’ll automatically hide your location from any prying eyes. That’s a big plus, but is that really enough to keep you completely anonymous? Let us quickly check that out and get the right answer.
Here’s the Catch with Anonymity
As you might have assumed, there is a catch. In order to understand that catch, you will need to know what your anonymity depends on in the first place here. If you have ever used these services before, then you know that VPNs cost some money. Some may be more expensive than other, but the point is that you have to pay for them.
Therein lies the rub. Let me put it this way. When you find a provider and decide to exchange your money for a VPN subscription, which payment method do you use? A credit card, your PayPal account, or something similar? Think closely about how you were planning to pay for these services and ask yourself one thing.
If you are paying with a credit card, or PayPal, or anything similar, how much data do you have to disclose in order to go through with the payment? It might not be too much, but it’s definitely enough to reveal your identity. Now, use your logic to answer the next question. Are people anonymous once they reveal their identity?
That question might sound rather stupid, but the truth is that most people tend to forget to factor that in. This brings us to a simple conclusion. If you value your privacy that much and you want to stay hidden, you will have to look for anonymous ways to pay for your VPN subscription. You’re probably a bit puzzled right now, thinking that there’s absolutely no way to pay for something without anyone knowing who you are, but that’s not the case.
Do You Really Need This?
Before we get to explaining these private payment methods, I’d like you to first ask yourself whether you really need to even think about them. That depends on the reasons behind your necessity for a VPN. If you remember my above explanations, then you know that virtual private networks serve many different purposes and, while the idea of privacy is definitely appealing, some people don’t even have to bother thinking about it.
For example, if your whole purpose of using a VPN is watching Netflix, then you don’t need to tire your brain out by trying to figure out how to pay for your subscription in a private way that won’t reveal your identity to anyone at all. Of course, nobody is stopping you from doing that, but it might not be worth the trouble. Now, if you have different agendas, you’ll definitely need to think about this.
Say you are a journalist who needs to do research on certain controversial issues and you don’t want your name to get tied to the findings. Your browsing history definitely won’t be safe hidden unless you find a way to pay for your VPN in an anonymous way. If you are living in a country with widespread online surveillance, your necessity for security and anonymity will be even more significant. Whistleblowers are among the top users who should definitely value their own privacy.
As you can see yourself, most people won’t have to worry about this at all. Even those who want to download torrents might find a different way to protect themselves without needing to be concerned about the payment methods. There are those “no-log” VPNs for people like these. However, making thing as secure as possible will definitely give you a peace of mind, even if watching Netflix is your only intention. In other words, you might want to think about this method no matter the reasons behind using a virtual private network.
How to Stay Anonymous
There are several methods in which you can pay for your VPN and stay hidden and protected. It’s 2020, so I suppose you have already heard about cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. These are one of the best ways in which you can make sure that you are staying completely anonymous online. In case you aren’t familiar enough with how these work, I suggest you find some additional info on the topic. It might sound complicated, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll see that it’s not that difficult to grasp.
Here are the steps you will need to take in order to pay for your VPN with Bitcoins. First things first, you will need to set up a Bitcoin wallet, buy some Bitcoins and add it to your wallet. After that, you’ll need to make sure to find a virtual private network provider that accepts cryptocurrencies, because not all of them will. The final step is to sign up for that particular VPN and pay for your subscription using the Bitcoins that you have acquired. As you can see, it’s really not that difficult.
There is another way, though, if you don’t feel like entering the world of cryptocurrencies. I’m talking about gift cards from certain major stores. Once again, you’ll need to make sure to find a specific provider that accepts this payment method and when you do, you won’t need to worry about your identity getting revealed at all. This is almost like paying in cash.
The whole process isn’t much different from the process you would have to go through if you used Bitcoins. First, you buy a gift card. Then, you find a VPN provider that accepts those and sign up for their services. When you reach the checkout part, you choose “gift card” as your payment method and then you enter the ID number that you will find on the back of the gift card. That’s the whole idea.
Downsides to These Methods
It’s perfectly normal for these methods to have their downsides. Paying with credit cards or a PayPal account also has its downsides, connected to anonymity, so the question will be which disadvantages you are ready to accept. When paying in Bitcoins or gift cards, you will always have to manually renew your subscription, which is the number one disadvantage. In addition to that, you’ll need to put in a lot of effort into finding a provider that accepts these and, of course, you’ll have to be ready for the process to be a bit slower than the traditional process using credit cards.