Part of my job as an Editor and Writer here at Windscribe requires me to read around the internet on the VPN industry and anything else we decide to cover in Content land.
This means that I read a lot of clickbait-like comparison articles of, shall we say, dubious quality. Typically, they have no character; they're filled with a bunch of comparison charts punctuated by generic paragraphs. Some can be pretty unbiased – and by that, I mean they aim to cover as many of the most popular services as possible for maximum hits on the ol' search engine – and others scream “financial ties” to one or more of the services they're making a “fair comparison” on.
An article I read recently from vpncenter.com caught my eye, though, by going one step further.
"Watch Out For the Little Guy"
Now, no one here is naïve; we know how business and marketing work, and while I might roll my eyes at them sometimes, I won't consign someone to the pits of hell for a robotic SEO article, nor for promoting their partners a bit harder.
The first half of the article in question was just a run-of-the-mill, comparison-chart-filled breakdown of the usual suspects, and I figured there'd be nothing else.
My eyebrows raised when I got to their section on “Red Flags.”
I'm not trying to say that a VPN service isn't costly to run. I'm absolutely not saying that you shouldn't beware of snitching.
These are valid concerns, and vpncenter is right to raise them! The issue is how they frame it as black and white and primarily tied to small VPN services. At best, it's an egregiously ignorant statement; at worst, it's a full-on attack on the little guy and actively trying to associate smaller services with poorer, more corrupt services.
The funniest part is that the big dogs have the dodgiest track records and backroom dealings. A few of our team covered this with our VPN Relationship Map, which aims to chart all corporate, financial, and political links within the VPN industry.
This is an ongoing process, but if you look, you'll see that the most prominent corporations have the shadiest connections. So, while vpncenter.com are here telling you to stay away from the “snitching” small services, the major services are doing the very things they're warning you of.
What They Should Have Said
There was a straightforward, fair way they could have phrased this, and my hope is that the unfortunate phrasing they went with is simply down to ignorance or just not spending more than a moment to think it through.
We all make mistakes, after all.
Free Offerings Are Suitable For Some
Instead of disparaging all free VPN offerings as inherently underhanded (a stance I find curiously tangential to the decrease in free offerings from the more prominent names in the industry), consider that companies can and do offer free services alongside paid-for services. This is a standard business model in multiple industries, and it doesn't mean they're selling your data to fund it.
For a start, there are many VPN users in countries with either weaker economies, or oppressive regimes, both of which can prevent them from accessing paid-for VPN services. Free VPN services are crucial in times of crisis - just like they have been during all the Russian, Chinese, and Iranian upheavals.
Is it worth checking that a service has a legitimate, above-board funding source before signing up? Absolutely! We're big advocates for taking a serious approach to your privacy and security.
But if a legitimate company offers a free service suitable for your needs, then take it, and enjoy the money saved.
Check No Logs Policies and Compliance History
We've covered this kind of thing ourselves, and we wholeheartedly agree that you should always check the details.
The implication that small companies both regularly do this and are the only ones who do this is asinine; check into these things for any VPN service you look into, regardless of whether they're a small business or a large corporation.
Will My Rant Change Anything?
I like to think of myself as a realist, so no, it probably won't change anything. Who knows? Maybe someone over there sees this and thinks, “oh shit,” before making a change. Or perhaps the thought process is more along the lines of “I don't give a shit.”
Either way, what they've written is bullshit, and I think that's worth calling out.