Does Hotspot Shield Keep Logs

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Hotspot Shield is an experienced VPN provider that has been around since 2008. The major benefit of this service is that it is free of charge. Unfortunately, users often have to pay for free VPNs in another way and their privacy may suffer. I decided to find out if this provider is safe enough for its subscribers. My research mainly focuses on privacy policy to determine whether Hotspot keeps logs and how it uses them.

Where is Hotspot Shield Based?

Hotspot Shield is a VPN service brought to us by AnchorFree. Both companies are registered in the USA. I can understand why international businesses strive to work under the US jurisdiction (legislation favorable for corporations, stability, and access to qualified manpower) but it is a very dubious choice to locate a VPN.

Any service that focuses on security tries to avoid surveillance and privacy-hostile laws. Unfortunately, Uncle Sam likes watching over people’s shoulders even against their will. Not for nothing that the US is the founder of a secret intelligence organization known as the 5 Eyes.

VPNs are not protected from the long arm of the law. At any time they may be ordered to hand over data about their clients. If you have a subscription with an America-based VPN, you will never know that your file is scrutinized. The only way a VPN provider can protect you from government monitoring is by keeping logs clean. Sadly but Hotspot Shield does retain some user data.

Hotspot Shield Logging Policy

The service used to keep clients’ IP addresses which strongly resented the clients. This fact forced the company to revise its privacy policy and refuse from permanent IP records. Now IP addresses are stored only for the duration of a VPN session and are discarded as soon as a connection is terminated.

Unfortunately, the service didn’t opt out of other types of logs. At the moment, Hotspot Shield knows what kind of devices you use to access its service, your operating system, and details about your mobile or WiFi network. The provider reassures that this information can’t be used to ID specific users. However, data about a network and circa location can actually help to identify a user’s device.

Since Hotspot Shield is partly a free service, it cooperates with advertisers that tend to flood the service’s app with annoying ads. The provider promises it never shares personalized data with such businesses but at the same time, it doesn’t prevent them from collecting information independently. There is also a long list of third parties which get user data from Hotspot Shield directly to conduct business operations and maintain internal technology.

Another worrisome news came from CSIRO, an Australian research organization. It conducted a massive research that revealed that Hotspot Shield uses tracking codes on their apps to monitor users’ activities. Moreover, there is a reason to believe that the company redirects some traffic through the networks of its affiliates for a fee.

Read a full Hotspot Shield review to find out about other features of this service.

The Best Logless Alternatives to Hotspot Shield

Although Hotspot Shield has an acceptable policy regarding log retention, it supplies advertisement from the third parties. You are able to get rid of ads if you purchase a premium subscription but you still may be vulnerable to monitoring. Therefore, it is wise to find a provider that doesn’t bother to record users’ connection. One of such services is NordVPN. The company is registered in Panama that doesn’t ask to collect any user data. It allows the vendor to implement an infallible log-free policy. As a bonus, the provider offers an impressive set of security features. So, if you are looking for a trustworthy VPN, you should give NordVPN a try.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, Hotspot Shield is far from being a safe service. It is registered in the 5 Eyes country and its privacy policy allows collecting some logs. Moreover, the provider permits its partners to independently monitor user connections and this is a huge no-no. Even paid subscribers are not immune to tracking codes supplied with the software. For these reasons, I do not recommend Hotspot Shield.

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