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Thoughts on Private Internet Access?

CPotter
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Go to solution Solved by CPotter,

This is great discussion, thank you everyone. Like I said, a lot of us around here still use PIA, but the VPN industry as a whole seems to be in a weird place these days, so we're still going to hold off on actively promoting anyone in the space for now.

Most of you will probably know that we've worked with Private Internet Access for several years, but we stopped actively promoting them due to growing concerns with the entire VPN industry as a whole after Kape purchased more competing services in the space late last year.

 

Full disclosure, many of us still use the product and I haven't run into any issues, but where's everyone else's head at these days? 

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The Best VPN Service, I have used NordVPN, expressVPN PIA is better than Nord and express, PIA has the best servers I use it a lot and I enjoy it.

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While I've not tried any other competitors (asides from Hotspot Shield), I've never had issues with PIA, before or after the acquisition. The servers I use are still as snappy and the software has not been bundled with any bloatware or crap. I can't speak to the resource usage before the acquisition, but it's sitting "off" at 90MB of RAM at present.

 

My Disclosure: I signed up for PIA with an LTT discount code before the acquisition and still am an active user.

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I personally do not use PIA, but the discussion surrounding Kape is full of misinformation. 
 

Kape or formerly Crossrider is always said to have distributed malware/adware in the past. Crossrider created a development platform which was used by third party actors. Some of those third parties used the platform to distribute malware/adware. Crossrider themselves weren’t responsible. (Source: https://restoreprivacy.com/kape-technologies-crossrider-malware/ )

 

I wouldn’t mind using any Kape owned VPN service. Their proprietary VPN protocols are interesting, but I prefer WireGuard.

 

 

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I have been using PIA for over a year now because I got a nice discount on yearly plan and so far it has been great. I can tell it to only work on one application, firefox in my case and do its thing for the traffic going through FF. Love it, best vpn I have used and well worth the monies.

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2 hours ago, CPotter said:

Most of you will probably know that we've worked with Private Internet Access for several years, but we stopped actively promoting them due to growing concerns with the entire VPN industry as a whole after Kape purchased more competing services in the space late last year.

 

Full disclosure, many of us still use the product and I haven't run into any issues, but where's everyone else's head at these days? 

I'm still utilizing a discounted 2-year PIA subscription for a few things, though I too am wary of any service that doesn't provide full unfettered access to their client and server side source code because one can only trust their word without such access.

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concerned about the stuff I hear about kape tech so I may cancel my PIA sub and setup something like wiregaurd on a VPS. I don't think there are much better options out there that are turn key so if you have to be sponsored by one at least PIA is opensource so we can audit the code base.

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I'm into my third year of subscribing, so far it's been great with the occasional hiccup.

- Sites have been blocking the Seattle and Vancouver IPs lately and that may effect some people's experiences with using the VPN. Nothing they can really do about it so I can't fault them for it, just sharing the experience.

- Super un-invasive, even on android which is really nice to see, never have any targeted ads for them and it's one email a year reminding me the sub is updating

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I would consider the real features VPNs actually provide and focus more in the independent and open source  options that aren't acquired by bigger, shady companies.

I believe the chart provided by Techlore is among the best and most complete comparisons across different providers. I believe options such as IVPN and ProtonVPN have a better history and seem more trustworthy, but I don't know if they have reached out to you guys, but they seem pretty nice compared to PIA and others.

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Was a PIA year sub for a few years and canceled the auto renew for 2022. Like got an email confirming and double checked defiantly canceled the auto renew. Months later they hit my PayPal for a new charge. Reach out to cancel and hear nothing back from them. They take so long that I go  through PayPal to cancel and refund everything. PayPal opens an inquiry asking for their input. Well they go beyond the respond deadline for PayPal and with my emails about the confirmation they refund me and kill my sub. Never heard anything from them even after. Can't imagine my experience is the norm but good god would I never recommend them to anyone. If people are here looking for good people check out Mullvad real privacy and refuse to buy ads has been good to me since the PIA fuck up.

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Found this on hacker news a while back.. I've been using NordVPN, but only because I accidentally defaulted on a yearly subscription. I hate this level of market consolidation. 

 

PIA is one of those I was honestly expecting LTT to drop here sometime. It has certainly thrown some shade for me on the trust I place in you guy's sponsers. Take that for whats its worth.

 

https://blog.windscribe.com/consolidation-of-the-vpn-industry-spells-trouble-for-the-consumer-57e638634cf0/

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I'll be honest, I usually just host my own VPN but I understand this isn't for everyone. Else, I usually use Windscribe or ProtonVPN. I haven't had much interest in other providers and haven't really been following the Kape Debacle

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8 hours ago, CPotter said:

many of us still use the product and I haven't run into any issues

How can you know if there are issues if data collection is typically done at the background out of plain sight without digging deep into the matter and investigating?!

 

PIA is known to use Google Analytics,and there is a reason why the french government wants to ban Google Analytics: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-02-10/google-analytics-risks-french-ban-over-u-s-data-spying-fears

 

Meanwhile ProtonVPN (a role model to how a VPN should be) uses open source Matomo for analytics.

 

So as long as Google Analytics is being used (and you can't trust Google with anything) i wouldn't recommend using PIA.

 

21 minutes ago, J-from-Nucleon said:

I'll be honest, I usually just host my own VPN but I understand this isn't for everyone. Else, I usually use Windscribe or ProtonVPN. I haven't had much interest in other providers and haven't really been following the Kape Debacle

Yep,ProtonVPN and Windscrbe are the best.

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I still use PIA vpn, although admitedly i dont fully understand all of its functions however, I've had no real issues with it. cusomer service has been great, fast and helpful, and it does what i need it to do. I have had a few issues with updating it but thats where the CS agents come into it and sorted it.

I like pia will still use it until the sub runs out not sure if will resub as im so tired of subs on subs, see how it goes.

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3 minutes ago, Tydfil said:

I like pia will still use it until the sub runs out not sure if will resub as im so tired of subs on subs, see how it goes.

Both ProtonVPN and Windscribe have a free tier,and they are the best on the market so you can't get better than that.

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I have large concerns with the VPN industry too, especially with brands owned by Kape. I think PIA employs too aggressive business practices to lock people into their service. Stuff like their front page saying "JUST €1.79 PER MONTH" but then it needing a single payment of €70 for a 3 year plan. I think it's all very misleading and especially when these companies CONSTANTLY use tactics like big countdown clocks for sales where it's your "last chance" to get this amazing deal pressures people into buying a VPN when they probably don't need one. Most people don't need a VPN, but a lot of sponsorship segments make it seem like you do to stay safe, that just simply isn't true. In 30 seconds you just can't get across who needs a VPN, who doesn't and why. So I personally think this is a bad sponsor to have.

 

I've been using Mullvad VPN for years and I'm really happy with them. They're more expensive, but there's no shady practices. It's €5 a month flat, no special bulk deals, no pressuring you to get it now. I've also considered using ProtonVPN (I use ProtonMail already) but I've just been very satisfied with Mullvad.

 

I think any respectable VPN company has to be as transparent as possible. I've really seen that with Mullvad, Proton and IVPN. This kind of stuff needs to be open source and have all their security reports public. There's no point in getting a VPN if you can't trust the VPN company, and companies like PIA, NordVPN and others give me no reason to.

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Hi, I'm a complete newbie. So... be patient, and dont swing to a tl:dr policy the post, please. I am no consumer of VPN products, I live and work in EU.

I'm personally concerned about the way several VPN brands are... vastly providing a lot of sponsorships to media creators, claiming a lot about "safety" for using their product.

Because.. VPNs have some interesting and useful usercases for doing something "not bad" in the balance of things: access to content public only for certain countries (this circumvent some trade deals but it's quite hard to say if that's good or bad), compare prices from different sources (and maybe asking for fairer quotation from the sellers).

For several SoHo users this kind of product could be really a value but...

 

Many companies (I think) asks the host to say "if you're not using our VPN you're not safe surfing the web!".

And IMVHO this is at least misleading.

Problem 1: you don't trust your ISP. Well... two things for this "so long, so nasty, so deep" discussions: a) if you not trust the ISP, you can save the PVN money and change your ISP for one you trust, b) if all the ISP are not trustworthy because of the nation, I'm sorry for you it's a too big for me chew that).
Problem 2: most VPN providers are using OpenVPN, which is triple-bound to TLS. Sure, Wireguard is rising and it's so well reviewed (I wonder myself why), but mostly the technology for protect your data accross the internet is similar (if not the same) of HTTP+TLS. 

Problem 3: when you're using a VPN service, you tell everything you are doing to the VPN provider instead of the ISP (which could only log your computer talking to your VPN endpoint). In my country, ISP is required to provide logs for warrant received, but only courts could provide that. So.... If what I'm doing is not something shady why exactly I should reduce my legal protection providing all the info about the sites i visit to a company... and pay for the privilege? I mean, if I'm using a public wifi and i don't trust the provider, maybe a VPN service could help me, but some of the occurrencies could be... just managed via something like TOR. As some host say, your mileage may vary anyway.

 

Moreover... the elephant in the room: par-nation closure for resellers, streaming services, free access.

If using a VPN i can access something that is not provided for me as content consumer, in some ways I'm "stealing" it. UK and Italian peoples have to pay for the country TV, and they are entitled to access (login required) a lot of streaming/video on demand for the content... I payed for. If a Canadian person access to the BBC UK streaming site using a VPN and acting as UK located and freebies that... it's not that nice. I mean, there's also a... not evil way/occurency for that. As person working abroad, but resident into a country, I could access the content I am entitled to, even if I'm not in that country at that time; a VPN service could help me to that.

 

So, VPN...

Could be useful? Yes.

Could also be used in a evil way? Yes, as any tool.

Is fair to publicize that as "the only way to safely browse the web?" IMVHO absolutely NO. And also as my opinion, the VPN companies should not be able to "ad like that" their product, because this wording, in my opinion, is so close to a lie.

 

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I've always found the "hide your browsing habits from your ISP by showing all of it to us instead!" marketing line all VPN hosts use a bit... dubious.

 

To be fair, I also live in the continental US and I don't subscribe to any international streaming services, so I don't really have a need for location spoofing either. If I'm using a VPN, it's for remote network access (either home or for work).

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4 minutes ago, Needfuldoer said:

I've always found the "hide your browsing habits from your ISP by showing all of it to us instead!" marketing line all VPN hosts use a bit... dubious.

Not just your ISP,but also mass surveillance.

And there are trustworthy VPNs like ProtonVPN and Windscribe.

I prefer proton since it operates from Switzerland which has fairly strong privacy protection laws.

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From my personal experience their Service is fine as I have been using it after you guys took them as a sponsor.

I've had some struggles with updating the Linux client but a quick uninstall usually fixed it.

 

A thing I don't like but seems to be just standard practise in VPN/Proxy Services is to have a fake discount on your service at all times. If your product or service is 80% discounted all year long then it was never really discounted in the first place.

In my opinion it would be fine to retain them as a sponsor but to for sure call them out if anything shady / bad happens from them. Like a removal of their non log keeping policy or something similar that actually effects the product/ service itself.

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5 hours ago, Vishera said:

open source Matomo for analytics

Off topic: Gave a quick look at their website, and it's basically "we are not Google Analytics" haha

Not a bad thing all things considered, and certainly good marketing.

Either way, carry on.

Dominik W

 

(What else do you need, this is just a signature, plus I have them disabled 😅)

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I've been using PIA since my Windscribe plan ended a year or two back and the speeds are great, it easily saturates my 200/20 connection whereas Windscribe couldn't max out my old 70/20 connection.

 

The downside is I have to reset it regularly as websites keep thinking I'm in another country (usually some eastern European country or the UAE) despite being set to the UK, a problem I never had with Windscribe.

 

I also agree with the point about the price being inflated to offer a perpetual discount, plus you can actually get it cheaper not using a sponsor link but instead going through a cashback site and getting the reduced price and the commission the likes of LTT would have got. As a cheapskate, I just couldn't imagine using an affiliate link as I know I can usually go through a cashback site and get that money myself!

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I don't think they are the worst VPN provider out there, but they still have some serious issues. My main 2 Problems are location and marketing.

 

A VPN provider headquartered in the US is inherently not trustworthy as they are part of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance and the US is known for spying on everyone and serving secret subpoenas to companies. You can assume that every medium to large privacy company based in one of those countries is actively being spied on. Ideally you want a VPN provider based in a country that does not legally collaborate with the country you're based in.

 

Secondly marketing. Let's just take this question from their FAQ section as an example.

 

Why should I trust Private Internet Access?

"With 10+ years of expertise leading the VPN industry, Private Internet Access has become one of the best-reviewed and highest-rated VPN services.... bla bla bla"

 

The correct and honest answer to this question is: You shouldn't. Every VPN company should be upfront and honest about the type of trust model VPNs are. They can see all of your traffic and your DNS queries. Does that mean they are malicious? No. But as a user you have no way of knowing what goes on on their servers. 

 

"With over 10 years of expertise leading the VPN industry, we’re true privacy experts when it comes to keeping you safe and anonymous online. "

 

Okay? and that's guaranteed by whom? You just have to take their word for it. Also there are 2 glaring issues with that statement. "keeping you safe" that's a stretch, VPNs don't magically remove threats from the internet. The only scenario where that might apply is when you're browsing unsecured sites over an unsecured wifi Network. And even then you don't remove the threat you just shift it from the wifi network to PIA's Server. 

 

"anonymous"

Ah yes. Once again, you just have to take their word for it. You can't verify anything. The only way to stay (somewhat) anonymous online is through a zero trust network like TOR. You're not making yourself more anonymous by shifting the exit point of your traffic to another private company that has your real IP Address and your personal information.

 

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I bought PIA based on LTTs endorsement/advertisement of it but my primary method of using them was the chrome extension and that has seen plenty of issues that their support refuses to address. This can be seen in reviews on the chrome extension web store and on the github where they post their browser extension code, including claims of IP theft. I recently switched away from PIA after doing a lot of research however the product I switched to also just got consolidated so this leaves me wondering is there anyone in the VPN industry with a quality service offering and chrome/brave extension support.

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