Lists of VPNs for Your Consideration
First published: May 2019. Latest revision: April 2021.
This is the penultimate article presenting my findings in my search for a trustworthy VPN. We’ve laid all the groundwork and now it is time to develop a list (or lists) of VPNs that merit consideration. With the list(s) as a starting point, one can then perform more complete investigations of the candidate VPNs and methodically winnow out those that do not satisfy your criteria as well as others do.
Although this is a rather lengthy time-consuming article to read, I sincerely believe it is worthwhile.
Some lists from external sources
In developing a list of VPNs that merit consideration, a task which can be quite daunting, we’ll take a shortcut and try to find some lists on the web that others have compiled that actually appear to be unbiased, which is a rarity.
When looking for such lists, don’t even bother to perform an Internet search for “best VPN.” If you were to do so, 99% of the search results will be for websites that purport to recommend VPNs to you based on their “testing” of VPN services, yet the VPN review sites are really just trying to earn a commission by referring you to VPN services. (Re-read my first article, “Can VPN Review Sites Be Trusted?” if you need a refresher on how VPN review sites are essentially scamming you.)
Nevertheless, it is possible to carefully extract some useful information from a few select VPN review websites. Using that information and, by sifting through some data resources about VPNs on the web, we should be able to combine what we find to produce a list of a reasonable number of VPNs that may satisfy our criteria. Actually, I used this method to produce a list of strict non-logging VPNs in the fourth article of this series. Following is a repeat of that information…
Despite having some concerns about the accuracy of the first two logging policy lists that were presented above, I thought it would be useful to see which VPNs that are shown to have acceptable logging policies on both of those two lists also receive a “Green Flag” (equivalent to a “generally good” grade) for logging policies and practice on the unbiased “Detailed VPN Comparison Chart.”
The resulting list that I compiled thus may be considered to comprise the “top-notch” VPNs relative to logging policies since they have been found to have acceptable logging policies by all three of the sources. Presented in alphabetical order, the 17 VPNs are:
- Private Internet Access
Thus, the above list would be a good starting point if one of the requirements for a VPN is to have a strict non-logging policy.
With about 200 VPNs available to you, it would be expedient to begin with a previously published list available elsewhere that meshes well with your criteria. A list that was a fair match of several of my personal preferences for a VPN was available (in mid-2019) at https://www.privacytools.io/providers/vpn/.
The list consisted of 18 VPNs that are “outside the US, use encryption, accept Bitcoin, support OpenVPN and have a no logging policy.”
“VPN providers with extra layers of privacy”
So, this second list would be useful if the criteria that was used to produce the list happens to match your criteria for a VPN.
Note: The above list is no longer available at the current privacytools.io website. The not-for-profit PrivacyTools organization has considerably strengthened their criteria by which they judge a VPN service. Following is their current introductory statement regarding their evaluation of VPN services:
Our VPN Provider Criteria
Please note we are not affiliated with any of the providers we recommend. This allows us to provide completely objective recommendations. We have developed a clear set of requirements for any VPN provider wishing to be recommended, including strong encryption, independent security audits, modern technology, and more. We suggest you familiarize yourself with this list before choosing a VPN provider, and conduct your own research to ensure the VPN provider you choose is as trustworthy as possible.
If you are truly serious about finding a trustworthy VPN, it is imperative that you not only read but actually study the VPN Provider Criteria that PrivacyTools has formulated.
Given their new VPN criteria that are not only more comprehensive but also more strict, PrivacyTools now recommends a mere three VPNs that fully satisfy the criteria:
PrivacyTools Recommended VPN Services
Beware that, when comparing lists on different websites, not only will the criteria of the lists vary, but the definitions of items used to produce the criteria may vary. For example, the definition of a “no logging” policy in one website’s criteria may be less strict than the definition used by a different website. So, even when we look at multiple sources, the process of evaluating VPNs can unfortunately be unclear and confusing.
The unique utility of the PrivacyTools VPN Provider Criteria is that it is well-considered and strictly defined. One could do quite well in relying on their exclusive Recommended VPN Services list to serve as a base for one’s further investigations in finding a trustworthy VPN.
A comprehensive listing of scores of VPNs that shows several parameters for each VPN can be an excellent resource if one is willing to invest some time and effort into modifying the list to more easily reveal the information that is most important to you. We’ll do this with a comprehensive list that is available on the web. Although the modification of the list is labor-intensive, the results should be worthwhile.
Modifying a list from a comprehensive and reliable source
The basic source we will use to create a list of VPNs that merit further consideration is the previously noted “Detailed VPN Comparison Chart” at VPN Comparison by That One Privacy Guy.
It is important to note that the “Detailed Comparison Chart” appears to be non-biased. I scoured the website and can find no links to VPN affiliate program commissions. Thus, there seems to be no monetary incentive that might bias the information presented in the “Detailed Comparison Chart.” Furthermore, several other sites refer their users to the “Detailed Comparison Chart.” Hence, this VPN information source commands the respect of its peers. In my examination of the website I have found no reason to doubt the trustworthiness or accuracy of the information about VPNs that is presented there.
The superlative and unrivaled value of the VPN comparison charts on the VPN Comparison by That One Privacy Guy web page as compared to the VPN review websites is based on the fact that the data presented in the charts is objective. The reported parameters of each VPN are not based on a reviewer’s opinions but rather on the actual and verifiable characteristics of each VPN.
Information about a VPN is gathered and each parameter for the VPN is then assigned a pass, fail or warning grade. Importantly, these grades (in the form of Green, Red and Yellow “flags”) are assigned systematically by defined criteria that are applied equally and impartially to all VPNs.
The “Detailed Comparison Chart” presents approximately 55 parameters for each of the almost 200 included VPNs. The cells of the chart are color-coded: Red indicates “something major of concern” or a severely problematic parameter, Yellow indicates “something of concern” or a cautionary parameter and Green indicates “generally good” or a positive and desirable parameter.
The “Simple Comparison Chart” (also color-coded) lumps together related parameters of the “Detailed Comparison Chart” and presents a summed score in nine categories. Thus the 55 parameters of the “Detailed Comparison Chart” are simplified into three broad categories that each have three summed parameters. The organization outline for the “Simple Comparison Chart” looks like this:
- Privacy: Jurisdiction, Logging, Activism
- Technical: Service Config., Security, Availability
- Business: Website, Pricing, Ethics
My recommended approach to the nearly overwhelming amount of information in the “Detailed Comparison Chart” would be to start with the “Simple Comparison Chart” to produce a list of VPNs that qualify for your consideration. Then use the “Detailed Comparison Chart” to further examine the VPNs that made it to your list. Next, I would strongly recommend that you “visit” the website of the VPNs under consideration to carefully examine the information presented there.
Producing a basic list
OK, let’s get back to compiling our own list. Remember, the great advantage of creating one’s own list so is that a non-biased source can be used for information about VPNs. I can’t emphasize this strongly enough!
So, let’s now use the “Simple Comparison Chart” to produce a basic list. If pretty much every category on that chart is important to us for our own choice of a VPN, then we would not want to tolerate a failing grade (Red) in any of the 9 sections that compose the “Simple Comparison Chart.”
Here is a list of the 10 VPNs (out of 190) from the “Simple Comparison Chart” that have no severely problematic (failing) red-flagged parameters:
VPN Red Yellow Green R, Y, G bar graph blackVPN 0 3 6 BolehVPN 0 2 7 CryptoStorm 0 6 3 IVPN 0 2 7 Mullvad 0 1 8 My Private Network 0 6 3 nVpn 0 6 3 ProtonVPN 0 3 6 Surfshark 0 4 5 Trust.Zone 0 2 7
Red = “something major of concern” or a severely problematic parameter
Yellow = “something of concern” or a cautionary parameter
Green = “generally good” or a positive and desirable parameter.
Of these ten VPNs, it may be wise to dismiss Cryptostorm, My Private Network and nVpn from consideration because they have each received cautionary Yellow flags in 6 of the 9 parameters.
Now, with seven VPNs left on the list, one would start to look more closely at the parameters of each VPN which would seem to satisfy one’s own personal rankings of criteria for a VPN. Use both the “Simple Comparison Chart” and the “Detailed Comparison Chart” to do this.
E.g., if your criteria places a great deal of importance on the technical options for configuring your VPN service, you may wish to eliminate blackVPN, Surfshark and Trust.Zone from your consideration since they receive Yellow flags for that parameter. The other four VPNs receive a Green flag.
By applying your own criteria in a like manner, you can probably winnow that list of seven VPNs down to two to four final candidates. Next, invest some time to thoroughly examine the websites of each of those remaining VPNs. In doing so, you’ll likely develop a preference for one VPN or another: you will have found a trustworthy VPN that will be likely to suit your needs for Internet security and privacy!
Remember, this final step of performing a close examination of the VPN’s website is critical, so don’t skip it!
In this article I’ve provided some information on how to produce lists of VPNs that one would use to qualify VPN services for further investigation, the goal being to find a trustworthy VPN service that meets personalized criteria, providing Internet secrecy and privacy. The example lists in this article could be used for your own use if your VPN requirements are similar to mine.
In the next (and final) article of this “Choosing a Trustworthy VPN” series, titled “My Personal Choice for a VPN”, I’ll reiterate the features of a VPN service that are important to me and comment on how the VPN that I have chosen for my own use fulfills those requirements.