Disclaimer: Just as the reviews are my opinion, so too are these badges, as they represent my experience and thoughts on policies of a given service. As stated at the beginning of all reviews, I will always do my best to provide supporting evidence and detailed descriptions to explain how I arrived at my conclusions where these badges are concerned. Readers can learn more about how I conduct my reviews, my methodology, etc – here. See all of the VPN’s that have been reviewed badges here.
When writing reviews, I often want to emphasize one or more aspects of the VPN in question. For simplicity and to provide an added incentive as being exceptionally good or bad, I’ve implemented a series of badges for quick visual recognition and hopefully incentive. These badges may have tongue-in-cheek names meant to entertain, but are strictly my opinion – companies who earn these badges are free to use them on their websites under the condition that they link back to that one privacy site (with a hyper-link on the badge icon in question).
Next to the name of each badge is an example of the kinds of things I’m looking for that might merit its award. Note that the “criteria” listed for the badges are in ADDITION to my impressions and experience using the service, and not the requirements alone. I’m looking for outstanding, “above and beyond”, industry class: experiences, effort, systems, and policies in addition to getting the vast majority of a categories’ fields right.
The Badges of Honor
Privacy – Doesn’t ask for more personal info than an email address (without verifying), offers at least one anonymous payment method, clear no logs policy.
Features – PGP Key available, offers two or more obfuscation methods, officially supports a manual .ovpn config setup without the need to contact support. Supports OpenVPN.
Technical – Solid service configuration: Uses 1st party DNS servers, Doesn’t block ports (at least some servers are kept open), US speeds are 80%+ and International speeds are 15%+. Uses dedicated servers, default encryption is strong.
Elegance – Terms and policies are relatively simple, provides an easy method to test service (whether official trial or refund period), allows for refund without bandwidth or session limits.
Support – Support is both speedy (initial response less than 24 hours) and helpful (able to resolve at least basic issues within 24 hours of first response).
Website – Design of the site is easy to follow and find things on, less than 3 cookies and less than 3 trackers, less than 3 proprietary APIs, “A” or higher SSL rating, Self issued SSL cert.
Ethics – Less than 2 ethics “violations”, if service has an affiliate program, terms must require ethical behavior, appears to actively support good causes and promote good business practices.
That One Privacy Guy’s Choice – This represents an outstanding review, including no major faults. The ultimate badge to be achieved.
Conversely, there will be stamps of shame that companies “earn” by lacking a major feature or never responding to support requests, etc. These badges are not given lightly – as the badges above are rewarded only for outstanding policies and experience, likewise, these badges are only given with especially bad policies or experiences while reviewing (one or two things wrong in a given area are usually not enough to earn such a demerit).
The Stamps of Shame
Exposed – Requires personal info, logs everything or almost everything, offers no anonymous payment method.
Basic – No manual configuration setup support whatsoever. Linux and Android (manual) are afterthoughts if thoughts at all. Generally unfriendly to advanced users who prefer setting things up themselves.
Broken – Weak encryption used by default, default settings are lacking in an egregious way. Ports blocked, etc.
Obtuse – Terms are out of control and too long. Company goes out of their way to absolve themselves of all responsibility and nail down the customer.
Silent – Support took 3 days or more to even respond to an initial request for assistance (if they replied at all). Given even if they do respond but still have nothing useful to say.
Website – Website relies too heavily on cookies and trackers (more than 10), proprietary APIs (more than 10), has a C or lower SSL rating, uses Cloudflare/Incapsula or has no SSL cert at all.
Shady – Has more than 4 ethics “violations” on the comparison chart. Company engages in affiliate marketing without limits.
Pile of Junk – Avoid at all costs. Too many things wrong to count. The ultimate demerit one can “earn”.
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