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VPN Gate Review
- One of the rare Japan-based VPNs
- Maintained by volunteers rather than a workforce
- Collects users’ data due to being a research project
- Mercifully free
- Started off as a research project rather than a product
- Its main focus is unblocking Netflix for non-US customers
Table of Contents:
- What is VPN Gate
- What are VPN Gate’s Priorities
- What are VPN Gates Features
- What are its Drawbacks Otherwise
- Who is VPN Gate For
What is VPN Gate? ➡️
VPN Gate is a research project started in Japan at the Nation University of Tsukubaka. The original intention of the researchers was simply to study the distribution of public VPN relay servers.
In order to do this, they basically had to make their own VPN and collect data on what it took for that VPN to connect to foreign countries’ servers. After a while, however, it went from being a small experiment to being a real VPN. People kept downloading it and the researchers kept updating it.
Today it is a VPN available all over the world, for free, in a variety of different languages (most importantly English). Currently, it is being maintained by a small force of volunteers.
In short, it is a VPN with a strange history. Being a research project means that it does not have the same priorities as other VPNs on just about every level. Let’s think about what that means.
What are VPN Gate’s Priorities? 🤔️
Most VPNs are products, which means they have a business model designed for growth. Products on a marketplace have to justify their existence to the people paying for them. The people paying for them are not just customers either, but also the investors and shareholders who finance their production.
VPN Gate is free, meaning that it is not a product on the marketplace in the traditional sense of things. But it is not just that it is free that makes it unique. There are plenty of VPNs that offer free services.
But most times those services are free with some sort of asterisk. They are free with ads, free with the option to donate to their development, or free with a premium version that has more features. Essentially, even free VPN services tend to have some sort of avenue to be monetized in some way.
That is what makes VPN Gate unique. It is not a business interest on any level. That informs everything from its features to its privacy policies. So, if you ever look at some quirk of VPN Gate and cannot seem to figure out why something is the way it is, the answer will probably be, “It is a free research project.”
What are VPN Gates Features?
Due to this shift in intention, VPN Gate’s features are more focused on location spoofing than privacy. It has connections to servers across most of the world, specifically Asia and the United States. It can reach into Europe and Africa, but its speeds will be much slower compared to that of Asia or Oceania.
It is worth noting that even though it is a free VPN with a focus on location spoofing, its encryption is above average for free software. This is important, as the primary purpose of a VPN is to protect your network by basically making a wall of encryption between it and all outgoing and incoming information.
This encryption means that even if a website calls information from your computer, any information they get will be too well encrypted to be read. As you might expect, that means the protective capabilities of a VPN are only going to be as good as the VPN’s ability to encrypt your data as it is called.
Luckily, VPN Gate’s encryption is well above average. If any website calls the information out, the data will be so well encrypted that it would not be worth the effort on the website’s part to try to read it.
The downside of this is that it means VPN Gate lacks basically every other feature a person might be used to getting out of a VPN. There is nothing to prevent IP address tracking, no internet kill switch in case a website or virus tries to disable your VPN, and certainly no port forwarding for torrents.
As a result, you can think of VPN Gate as a good way to quickly protect a device that you are using in public. The most common method for hackers to steal your information is by intercepting it over publicly accessible wireless internet networks. This is a security issue many people who travel deal with.
Hackers will use programs called “packet sniffers” to try and pick up the transmissions your computer sends over the air. They will then decrypt anything that is not properly encrypted and read it for passwords, banking information, and so on. Even legitimate websites will try to do this as well.
Therefore, a free VPN that provides good encryption is actually quite desirable if you are someone who does a lot of traveling and needs to make sure their files have at least some level of encryption.
A VPN can protect you from having your information stolen by a corporation like Facebook or YouTube.
These corporations will monitor your computer activity whenever they can, and then sell that information to anyone who will buy it. This information can be used for anything from advertisement to identity theft. VPNs help keep your information from being stolen and ending up in the wrong hands.
Because a VPN protects you from that by interfacing directly with the information that those corporations are trying to steal from you, the VPN actually occupies an interesting place in your security.
Imagine you want to write a program for stealing people’s information, but you are also exceptionally lazy. Why go through the work of writing such a program when you can just let Facebook do it for you?
And so instead, you make a VPN. That VPN protects the user’s data from Facebook, but by looking at the information Facebook is trying to steal you can just make your program steal that information.
Nobody would pay for a VPN that just steals your information. Which makes it bothersome that no one is paying for VPN Gate at all. Therefore, it is not beholden to customers or shareholders who might hold it to a standard of respecting its user’s privacy. The question is: Do they respect users’ privacy?
The Answer is not That Simple
As we mentioned before, VPN Gate is a research project meant to chart how VPN relay servers function. Because of this, they have to gather an amount of information from your computer to accurately determine where it is, what servers it is connecting to, and how good the connection quality is.
This means gathering IP information, information on your modem and its security, and geographical location information. Basically, a bunch of information that you do not want getting sold to anyone.
This puts VPN Gate in a difficult position. You see, part of the problem with a VPN collecting your data is that once they have it, there is no way to be certain that they are not using it for their own profit unless they outline in a contract or end-user license agreement exactly how they are going to use it.
VPN Gate has an end-user license agreement, and they do indeed say that they will use that information for research purposes, but they do not outline any requirement for them to use it for exclusively that reason. This means they can absolutely sell your information in secret if they want to.
But while it is possible that they will do that, it is unlikely. If any other VPN product on the market was claiming to be free while collecting this information, then you could almost be assured that they were making their money back by selling the information they got from you. But VPN Gate is a little different.
VPN Gate does not have to answer to the market, but it does have to answer to the university at which it was developed. A research product being used to spy on its users and sell their information for a profit would quickly see its developers kicked out of both that university and every other university in Japan.
When a research project like VPN Gate is done, it is usually owned by the university that funded it. While VPN Gate might not have made any promises to you that it will not make a profit selling the information it takes from you, it did make a promise to that university (and likely to the government of Japan).
For many people, this will be a deal-breaker for the VPN on principle. But just know that VPN Gate is in a unique situation wherein it can reasonably be expected to log some of your information, but not sell it.
This is an extreme exception to the rule, however.
What are its Drawbacks Otherwise? 🔎️
While VPN Gate is good for location spoofing and the encryption it provides as a VPN, it is not without flaws. The lack of features is the biggest one by far, although most people expect that of a free app.
In addition to that, however, it also has some pretty low speeds in most countries. This can be a problem for a VPN, as the network that produces the encryption for you requires a constant internet connection since it is basically be streamed to you. Essentially, if the VPN is slow your whole internet will be slow.
VPN Gate might be easy to set up, but that also comes with a lack of customization in your experience. The app is really only going to do one thing. That means there are no advanced settings you can use to optimize your experience or make the app run faster. What you see is what you get.
Its compatibility is also a major shortcoming. VPN Gate is mostly limited to being used on Windows computers. It can be ported to Mac on a partition, but it cannot be used on a phone or tablet unless it is a Windows device. At the very least this lines up with the app’s expected demographics.
Most VPN users are not Mac users. In fact, more Linux users run VPNs than Mac users. Sadly, VPN Gate is also not available on Linux. In short, it works on fewer devices than it does not work.
Perhaps the biggest drawback of all though is that it could go away at any time. Whenever they want, the university that hosts the app could decide to take it down. Even the people patching it and keeping it running are an all-volunteer workforce. If no one steps up to take care of the app, there is no more app.
Who is VPN Gate For?
VPN Gate is for someone on the move who needs a VPN to encrypt their data but does not want to spend any money on just that feature alone. If you need anything else, VPN Gate will not help you.
It is also not for anyone looking to torrent things, anyone looking for private browsing, or anyone that wants to keep their internet service provider from throttling their speeds. On top of all of that, even people who want to use it might be limited by their devices since it is not ported to many systems.
VPN Gate is not the best VPN in the world, but it is totally free so no one should really be expecting the best.
What it offers you is a fast, easy-to-use encryption wall that can let you watch Netflix while outside the United States if the area you are in blocks it.
If you need anything more than that, look elsewhere. Just remember that it collects your data and could go away at any time.
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