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Private Tunnel VPN Review – Is It Really Worth It?
A VPN that charges their customers fairly? Could it really be true?
That’s the question we began to ponder after first hearing about Private Tunnel VPN. For the longest time, We’d sought out VPNs that offered unlimited data because, as consumers, we believe we are hardwired to see words like “unlimited” and “no limits” as signs that we’re getting more bang for our buck.
But then we heard about Private Tunnel’s unique billing practices and began to wonder if “unlimited” is really all it’s cracked up to be.
To explain: Private Tunnel, a commercial spin-off of OpenVPN Technologies, charges only for the data you use. And even newcomers who opt to give them a try using their free trial receive a whopping 2 gigs.
So you might be asking, “What’s the catch?”
We were wondering the same thing. So we decided to test them out for ourselves.
In this review, we’ll share the results of our speed test on their service, their ease of usability, the rating we give their customer support and overall experience with this VPN.
But before we jump right into it, here is a little background on Private Tunnel and the people behind this great top tier VPN service.
Private Tunnel Background
Private Tunnel is the brainchild of James Yohan and Francis Dinha, the founders of OpenVPN Technologies, Inc., a California-based company integrating a suite of cutting-edge networking and software technologies.
They have more than 3.6 million customers and counting.
Their website has a clean, professional design and their software has a simple, easy-to-understand interface.
Their site boldly claims to prevent 1 million cyber threats everyday. While it would be hard for them to prove this to the public without keeping some sort of records of the threats they block—and, therefore, keeping logs of your online activity—it does seem quite possible.
After all, it’s a mad, mad world we’re living in right now, one where cyber attacks are threatening everyone from banks and government facilities to private citizens.
As we saw in October of 2017, even our mums and dads are being targeted by cyber criminals. No on is safe…at least not if they don’t start using VPNs.
Private Tunnel looks and sounds legit, but we all know looks can be deceiving.
One thing that users should bear in mind is where they’re at. Private Tunnel is based in the Hacienda Business Park in Pleasanton, California, USA.
Why Does That Matter?
Because the US is part of the Fourteen Eyes alliance, a cluster of countries that entered into a multilateral agreement for cooperation in signals intelligence.
Synonymous with the UKUSA Agreement, this global collective eavesdrop on citizens using Echelon, a software program that allows them to intercept our communications, whether it’s casual online activity, emailing, texting, downloading or banking.
Here in Australia, Parliament has passed numerous amendments in favour of stricter data retention laws, meaning that our telecommunications companies can mine our personal information for their own purposes or the purposes of government scrutiny.
The only way to block our ISPs (Internet Service Providers) from collecting this metadata is to use a VPN with solid encryption. For more information on staying 100% safe online check out our in depth guide to every privacy tool imaginable.
But when it comes to selecting a VPN, it’s a lot like selling real estate—it’s all about, Location! Location! Location!
The problem with Private Tunnel, and companies like it, is that they operate out of a country that is within their legal right to demand that the VPN hand over data that is pertinent to one of their investigations.
This doesn’t mean that Private Tunnel would willingly comply with any government institution straight away. On the contrary, they claim that they do not retain any activity logs, but they are also upfront about the fact that they save some connection logs.
Supposedly, these logs are kept only for monitoring performance and maintenance, but most reputable VPNs maintain a strict no logs policy.
It is fairly obvious that Private Tunnel could be forced to hand over user logs if they were served with a subpoena or warrant.
On the plus side, there have been no cases of VPNs handing over information to government institutions for arbitrary reasons. Any time a VPN has landed in the news for surrendering such data, it was pertaining to a criminal case, usually one involving a cyber criminal utilizing a VPN provider’s services for malicious purposes (potentially on the dark web).
What Does Private Tunnel Offer & Compatibility
Private Tunnel enables you to surf the web anonymously by hiding your IP address and location.
While much of their service is pretty threadbare, they tick all the right boxes where strong encryption is concerned. Their OpenVPN protocol is hard to beat.
Features include no activity logging, unique data plans, and an annual plan with unlimited bandwidth.
This VPN service also supports these operating systems and devices:
- USB TV sticks
- Set-top TV boxes
- Specialty tablets
Perhaps what is most interesting about this VPN is their commitment to development and evolution. Not one to rest on the laurels of their success, OpenVPN, Inc. now supports OSTIF’s Bug Bounty Program, a reward-based program that pays developers when they discover crucial flaws in open-source software.
On the downside, there are a limited numbers of servers in a limited number of locations. Since we always believe that the best way to test out a VPN is to do some traveling, We used Private Tunnel while traveling from Sydney to New York and back.
Using one of their three New York servers, we measured 26 Mbs for download and 16 Mbps for upload. Latency brought it up to nearly 79 ms. Strangely, we found that those numbers grew after touching down in Australia.
There, we were able to hit 50 Mbps downloads and 43 Mbps upload with 25 ms ping. Not bad for a service that has been known to be slower than some of its competition.
Unfortunately, there is no kill switch with Private Tunnel, so users are vulnerable to scrutiny if the connection fails while they are engaged in online activity.
If there’s one huge handicap to Private Tunnel, it’s their relative dearth of features. Some of the best VPNs provide advanced features such as URL filtering, ad-blocking, etc.
Private Tunnel has only one feature worth noting—Intrusion Prevention Software. This wards off malicious attacks by things like malware and the like, but that’s where the goodies end I’m afraid.
On top of that, they only have 12 locations available in 9 countries. This measly number of servers is pretty discouraging when compared to the wealth of servers offered by services such as ExpressVPN or VyprVPN.
However, they make up for this scarcity by supporting devices that many other VPNs don’t, including the aforementioned USB TV sticks.
Pricing & Plans
This is where Private Tunnel really shines. As mentioned before, they offer a free trial with 2 Gbs of data. Additionally, they have two data capped plans and an annual package with unlimited data.
Their reasonably priced plans start with unlimited data.
Alternately, their annual plan provides the user with a large discount at less than $3 per month on average, one of the best we’ve seen a VPN offers.
Private Tunnel has a combination of full and pro-rata money back guarantees, and they accept a variety of payment methods from traditional methods like bank transfer or credit card to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
Private Tunnel Pros
Private Tunnel’s parent company has been around since 2002, meaning that the folks responsible for this VPN are well-established.
You get a rock solid encryption from a company that’s dedicated to cutting-edge software solutions.
As we’ve seen, they have widespread compatibility and an easy setup.
Many users also appreciate the fact that there’s no need for a subscription. You can literally pay as you go.
Security & Privacy
This is the main concern for those looking for a VPN. You want anonymity and security and you want to know that you’re really getting it.
In terms of security, the OpenVPN protocol has a terrific reputation among the online community. But despite that fact, there is the problem of location.
Private Tunnel’s US location could pose a real problem for users who are looking to do some torrenting. Although you can connect their apps and use BitTorrent for your file sharing, most US companies frown on this practice and there’s no telling what might happen with the logs from that particular kind of activity.
Legislation like the Stored Communications Act puts the real power in the hands of America’s Federal government.
So, although Private Tunnel’s 128-bit AES-GCM encryption protects your data transmissions, there is reason to theorize that your activity could fall into the wrong hands if you’re engaged in P2P sharing. Read more about encryption in our guide.
Is Torrenting Allowed?
There are thousands of VPNs on the market. All of them are vying for your business. This can lead to some VPNs promising a lot but offering a little. This is why we truly appreciate the honesty, simplicity, and transparency offered by Private Internet Access. Their well implemented encryption and a zero logs policy coupled with their cheaper price are a few of the reasons why we recommend that VPN service.
If a torrent friendly VPN is what you’re after – read our best vpns for torrenting article.
Can I Use Private Tunnel for Netflix?
At the time of this writing, US Netflix and BBC iPlayer cannot be accessed. There are several premium VPN plans out there for streaming, but this is not one of them. We wouldn’t recommend this one for Netflix (here are some better options).
Private Tunnel has a precarious logging policy at best. While they claim that they do not keep logs of user activity, they do save connection logs for vague purposes.
Lots of VPN services boast about their “lightning fast” speeds, but Private Tunnel doesn’t eveme n both to make such a claim. It’s obvious why since any user will tell you that they have experienced lags on more than one occasion.
Our experience was mixed. They seemed to be a decent transatlantic option, but considering they are based out of the US, We were more than a little shocked at the low speeds achieved while visiting New York.
Here are the results of our speed test after doing a spot of traveling:
We can’t say that we were thrilled with the results, at least not when we were in the US. You would think a service that’s based in the US would have the best speeds of all. Home field advantage, as it were. But that did not appear to be the case with Private Tunnel.
More information about connection speeds can be found on their Questions Page here.
Private Tunnel Cons
Limited Customer Support – Uh Oh….
Do We Recommend Private Tunnel?
Compatible with USB TV sticks
Affordable pricing options
No activity logs
Easy to use
Saves connection logs
The only customer support option is a ticketing system
Lack of features
Does not allow Netflix or similar streaming services
Unclear torrenting policy
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