The best country for VPN anonymity isn’t the one that’s the least likely to strong-arm a provider into giving up your information – it’s the one that doesn’t legally require it to keep any such data in the first place. We’ll save the suspense for another day – it’s Switzerland.
But what makes this small country in the heart of Europe the ideal host of virtual private networks? The answer to that question is multifaceted and ever-evolving, so it’s easiest to start by investigating why some other supposed bastions of freedom are behind Switzerland in the global privacy race.
Can’t compromise what isn’t there
Numerous countries around the globe don’t force VPN firms to keep any user logs. Yet most have been reported as part of a variety of intelligence initiatives, most notably the clandestine Five Eyes Alliance which encompasses the U.S. itself, along with Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, according to extensive NSA documentation whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked in 2014.
The main takeaway from the said data dump is that unlawful spying of citizens enabled by democratic institutions has been occuring the world over since at least the turn of the century. A range of collaborative intelligence initiatives is another risk to people’s privacy highlighted by the leak. In that regard, even Switzerland was identified as being in contact with the Five Eyes Alliance in the past.
No country is perfect in that sense, yet the extent of Switzerland’s cooperation is limited at best given how Bern outright refused sacrificing any online privacy protections in favor of copyright litigation and other legal arguments way back in 2011. Not only does that stance persists to this date but is complemented by the aforementioned lack of user logging requirements in the Central European country.
Compare that to a place like the U.S. where one can observe a similar lack of logging stipulations on the surface, yet federal courts can e.g. approve warrants that compel VPN providers to assist American intelligence agencies in actively hacking citizens with little to no reasoning.
Then there’s that famous Swiss neutrality that complements such strong pro-privacy ideals rather nicely. VPNs are perfectly legal in most places for a reason, yet its Switzerland that appears to care for protecting one’s right to use them the most, as evidenced by the extremely limited scope of its data retention laws.
Wait, but Switzerland does have data retention laws!?
This is a big deal because the said legislation, enacted in 2015, has often been described as “draconian” in nature, yet it does not apply to VPN service providers by design. Top industry players such as ProtonVPN are quick to highlight that fact to underline their no-logging policies.
In other words, if you use a Switzerland-based VPN from the U.S. or pretty much anywhere else on Earth, there is no evidence to suggest any entity on the planet will be able to get their hands on your Internet activity or discover your identity because the data points required for such a feat simply aren’t being stored.
Are there exceptions?
Of course; say, if you’re a known terrorist. But again, we’re talking about scenarios completely unlike known dubiously authorized spying initiatives in the U.S. because Bern actually codified a plethora of stipulations holding authorities accountable for even the most secretive of real-time data requests.
Save for completely paranoid hypotheticals, that makes Switzerland the best country for VPN anonymity. Sure, there are comparably attractive alternatives like the British Virgin Islands and Panama, yet none of them have the political pull that allows Bern to resist international pressure when it comes to data requests.
Know your priorities
In the end, it’s worth pointing out that many industry watchers, from VPN providers themselves, to network engineers and privacy advocacy groups agree that the choice of a country for your virtual IP address isn’t necessarily your highest priority when it comes to protecting your online identity. That would be deciding on a VPN provider that suits your needs, has a spotless track record, and employs a no-log tracking policy, in accordance with applicable laws — or better said — a lack thereof.
That’s why your number one goal in a real-world scenario should be identifying a reputable VPN service set up so that it doesn’t even know who its clients are. Such providers accept anonymous forms of payment like cryptocurrency and have strict no-logging policies, while their choice of corporate headquarters is merely meant to reinforce that privacy-focused strategy instead of being its sole anchor.
“Best country for VPN anonymity?” was written by Dominik Bosnjak, a long-time VPN-user-turned-advocate who spends more time scrutinizing VPN Providers on a daily basis than he’d like to admit. When he isn’t writing VPN Guides and covering general Tech News, he’s probably spending time with his dog, video games, or both. Fun fact: the Shih Tzu in question is the only remaining creature in Dominik’s life who hasn’t told him they’re sick of him talking about Best VPN practices and government-sponsored erosion of digital privacy which made using the Internet less convenient over the years. He occasionally dabbles in video editing, Wall Street memes, and demonstrating a remarkable lack of guitar-playing ability.
If you want more tidbit-sized rants about any of those things, you can find him on Twitter @dddominikk.