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Google introduces a VPN for Android

Via The Verge (and Google)

As part of it’s Google One offering (a personal cloud storage subscription service), Google is now providing a VPN service for Android Devices.

The Topic

Google, who has come under increasing scrutiny over the past few years over how it handles user privacy, is pushing in the direction of privacy with its latest offering – a VPN for Android devices.

It’s part of its higher tier Google One offering, which offers 2TB of cloud storage, the aforementioned VPN, as well as other Google Store related rewards and support.

From Google’s Google One Info Page

The VPN is designed to give you an encrypted connection that connects to the internet without giving away your IP address, browsing activity, or location.

Can You Trust It?

VPN’s should always be approached with caution and scrutiny — while a VPN is designed to keep you and your internet activity hidden, you’re trusting that a VPN isn’t keeping logs or tracking what you do on their servers. This is why we recommend using a VPN from trusted sources who explicitly have a no-log policy and why we recommend staying away from free VPNs (who may be using collected data to make a profit).

Google’s VPN isn’t free (the Google One tier that includes the VPN costs $9.99/month or $99/year) but they don’t have a stellar reputation when it comes to user privacy and they’re known to track their customers in dozens of ways.

Their info page explicitly states that “Google will never use the VPN connection to track, log, or sell your browsing activity” but a footnote mentions that “Some minimum logging is performed to ensure quality of service, but your network traffic is never logged and your IP is not associated to your activity.”

Their VPN white paper provides more detail into the minimum logging that they mention earlier – much of it is tied to performance, error, and the number of sessions that are initiated. Specific timestamps are not used and user IDs are only used (and encrypted) to ensure the VPN service isn’t being used by a number of devices exceeding the maximum amount allowed.

Google has also made the client-side code to the VPN open-source, meaning it’s open to public scrutiny. They’ve also claimed that they will go through a third-party audit to gauge whether the VPN is keeping users’ activity private and isn’t tracking or logging users.

We still like NordVPN and ExpressVPN if you’re looking for a VPN you can trust, but it looks like Google isn’t trying to pull anything over it’s users with its VPN service. If you’re already a Google One subscriber and have a need for an Android-based VPN service, it may be a good idea to use it as you travel, connect to public WiFI, and whenever you want a little more privacy as you browse. However, we’d understand if you wanted to wait for the results of the third-party audit or after its open source code is scrutinized further.

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