Why Do You Need a VPN in the UK?
- They can prevent websites from tracking your activity and sending you personalized ads.
- VPNs hide or bounce your IP address, preventing others from pinpointing your general location.
- They encrypt your data, making it much more difficult for hackers to steal and take advantage of it.
- They allow you to bypass geo-restrictions, including different Netflix libraries.
- A VPN can prevent the British government and other intelligence organizations from collecting data and snooping on your internet activity.
Continue reading to learn more about the threat to online privacy in the UK and how you can protect yourself.
Why Premium VPNs Are the Best Privacy Solution?
The following are some of the best VPNs available to you at affordable prices.
Surfshark offers the following features:
- Unlimited devices for one account. You can connect your Surfshark account on multiple devices and even share login information with family members.
- Support for many platforms. Surfshark is available on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV.
- Over 1700 servers across 65+ countries. Surfshark has servers in North America, Central America, South America, Asia, Australia, Africa, and Europe.
- Strict no-logs policy. Surfshark is based in the British Virgin Islands, which doesn’t require data storing or reporting.
- RAM-only servers for increased security. Switching to 100% diskless servers means higher user privacy and security.
- Unlimited bandwidth for the best streaming experience. Surfshark is optimized for HD streaming because the company invests in making the most demanding server location (like the UK and the US) faster.
- CleanWeb: ad and malware blocker. CleanWeb blocks trackers, ads and malware before they can load. Surfshark’s databases are continuously updated and currently contain over million malware-infected websites.
- Kill Switch: safety net for when VPN connection drops. If you’re suddenly disconnected from a VPN server, Kill Switch technology disconnects you from the internet. That way, you’re not exposed to online threats.
- 24/7 customer support. Surfshark’s customer success team is available 24/7 via live chats or emails.
|$2.49/mo for 24 months||$6.49/mo for 12 months||$12.95 for monthly subscription|
ExpressVPN is one of the most well-known and trusted VPNs in the industry. It has been awarded as the best VPN for privacy in several tests. Like most premium VPNs, Express has a built-in Kill Switch (they named it Network Lock) that drops your internet connection if your VPN disconnects, so you are never unprotected without your knowledge.
ExpressVPN also provides split tunneling, meaning that you can choose to access some websites through your VPN while accessing others without it. While not unlimited, it does allow you to connect up to five Windows, iOS, Linux, Android, or macOS devices at once.
The biggest downside to ExpressVPN is the price. You can pay a monthly subscription at $12.95 per month, pay six months in advance at $9.99 per month, or pay 12 months in advance at $6.67 per month. While the prices are higher than most other VPNs, sometimes there are exclusive deals with which you can pay the full year in advance and then get three months free.
You can try ExpressVPN out before completely committing since they also provide a 30-day money-back guarantee. Since this company is also based in the British Virgin Islands, there is no obligation to keep logs of their users’ activity.
|$6.67/mo for 12 months||$9.99/mo for 6 months||$12.95 for monthly subscription|
NordVPN is the biggest name in the VPN industry as of right now. The service is based in Panama, which allows them to keep no logs of users’ activity due to no data retention laws.
Nord VPN comes with a built-in Kill Switch, Double VPN, Onion over VPN, and SmartDNS, all of which amounts to a great deal of security.
With more than 5000+ servers in 59 different countries, you have access to a wide variety of content.
One of the biggest issues with NordVPN is the decrease in speed, which is higher than most other premium and even free VPNs.
Nord VPN is available for Android, macOS, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Windows, Linux, Android TV, and more. You can use it on up to six devices at once.
Nord VPN accepts standard online payments and cryptocurrency. You can also pay with cash at specified retailers. This company also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
|$3.71/mo for 24 months||$4.92/mo for 12 months||$11.95 for monthly subscription|
CyberGhost is a good premium VPN, known for its success in blocking ads and malicious sites. CyberGhost has a unique feature called Smart Rules which allows you to customize the app to your preference.
For instance, you can have Netflix automatically connect to a U.S. server when you open the app, or your VPN can automatically turn on when it detects an unknown network.
CyberGhost is available on Windows, Android, Linux, iOS, and macOS devices. Though you can connect up to seven of these devices at once, you cannot use all features on all devices. For example, some CyberGhost smart rules only work on Windows and Android while others work on a wider spectrum.
It’s not all sunshine with CyberGhost, though. Their owner, Kape Technologies, was once caught spreading malware. That’s not exactly what you want from a digital privacy company.
While some say that this is history already, potential VPN customers should be aware of similar events.
|$2.75/mo for 18 months||$7.99/mo for 6 months||$12.99 for monthly subscription|
IPVanish has more than 1,400 servers in over 50 countries with almost 90 in the UK. It also offers 40,000 shared IP addresses and a lot of bandwidth for its users.
IPVanish provides some of the fastest local speeds: less than a 10 percent decrease. However, long-distance speed is quite different as it can decrease as much as 75 percent, though the average is a little over a 62 percent decrease.
One of the biggest challenges with IPVanish is its inability to unblock content in some places. For instance, it does unblock Netflix in Japan and the US, but has been shown to either provide no access or inconsistent access to Netflix in the rest of the world. It’s also ineffective in unblocking BBC iPlayer or Disney+ for many users.
IPVanish is available for Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, Amazon, Linux, Google Chrome, and wireless routers.
|$6.49/mo for 12 months||$8.99/mo for 3 months||$10 for monthly subscription|
Do You Get What You (Don’t) Pay for with Free UK VPNs?
Most of the premium versions above are fairly affordable, especially if you can pay for a long term subscription in advance or catch a promotion. But it’s understandable that not everyone has a budget for a VPN.
Whether you’re looking for a free VPN to try out the service in general, or you just can’t spend money on it, the following are some of the best free options.
Proton VPN is considered to be one of the best free VPNs. They have more than 1,000 servers in over 50 countries and you can access Netflix US and BBC’s iPlayer on most of them. There are no data limits, so you can stream to your heart’s desire.
As Proton VPN is based in Switzerland, no data is said to be kept on you or your activity other than the necessary billing info.
Tests showed a decrease in speed at an average of about 37 percent, which is in line with many premium VPNs. The biggest downsides are the following:
- There are few servers in Asia
- Many websites have actually blocked the use of Proton VPN, which can, of course, make it difficult to use.
There is a basic free version available to the public, but it only allows one device to be connected at a time.
They also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee in case you find that it does not quite meet your needs. Proton VPN works on Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows devices.
|Free for 1 VPN connection & servers in 3 countries||$4/mo for the plan Basic||$8 for the plan Plus|
TunnelBear is not streamer friendly. It doesn’t unblock Netflix, Hulu, or any other popular streaming sites. Sometimes it unlocks BBC iPlayer, but it isn’t very reliable.
While its local speeds are pretty good, long-distance usage has a decrease in speed over 60 percent. Even if you could access the streaming sites, the speeds would keep you buffering.
Additionally, Tunnelbear only provides 500 MB of data each day on its free plan, so you don’t get much use from it. If you want a VPN for streaming, better go with a different option.
You can, of course, upgrade to a paid plan, but there are still pretty extreme limits on what it can unblock. If you are going to pay for a VPN anyway, the premium VPNs listed above are the best options.
However, if streaming capabilities are not something you are concerned with and just want protection with simple browsing, Tunnelbear is a good free option.
|Free for 500MB of browsing||From $3.33/mo for the plan Unlimited||$5.75/user per month for business with a plan Team|
Windscribe provides encryption, a Kill Switch, split tunneling capabilities, and more. It can also unblock up to 42 Netflix libraries, making it a pretty good free option for streaming.
Windscibe claims no logging, but it has been known for collecting some usage data. Additionally, it is based in Canada, which is a 5 Eyes Alliance member. Just keep in mind that you might be sacrificing some of your privacy.
It has limited servers, which can cause some speed issues. In fact, it has been shown to decrease speed as much as 90 percent, but users still find it great for streaming.
Windscribe offers a free plan with plenty of good features. However, the free plan only provides 10 GB of data. There are paid options that provide unlimited data caps, but the price is comparable to the premium VPNs. Still, you can try it risk-free for 30 days to decide if a paid plan with Windscribe is right for you.
|$9 for a monthly subscription||$4.08/mo for 12 months||$1 per location per month|
Hotspot Shield is another decent VPN option that provides a free plan. It has more than 3,000 servers in more than 70 countries, which is one reason that tests only showed a 26.2 percent decrease in speed.
Hotspot Shield unblocks a lot of popular streaming platforms, including Netflix and Disney+. However, the free plan puts a 10 GB data cap on your use, which could impact your streaming activity.
They do provide premium packages to add bandwidth for $12.99 per month, $7.99 per month when paid one year in advance, and $2.99 per month when you pay three years in advance.
Hotspot Shield follows a strict no-logging policy for its users, so you can rest assured that your activity is safe. You can connect up to five Android, Windows, iOS, or macOS devices, depending on the plan you choose.
|Free for the plan Basic||$7.99/mo for the plan Premium||$11.99/mo for the plan Premium Family|
Hide.me provides plenty of security features for a free VPN, including split tunneling and a Kill Switch. You can use it on up to 10 devices depending on whether you choose the free or the premium plan. It’s available for Windows, Linux, MS Surface, macOS, iOS, Android, Blackberry, and Kodi.
The free plan provides 10 GB of data each month, which might be enough for some people, but if you’re an avid streaming service user, the data cap can be limiting.
Hide.me also unblocks some of the most popular streaming sites, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+. However, with a speed decrease of almost 50 percent, it might get laggy.
|Free for a plan with limited features||$4.99/mo for 24 months||$8.33/mo for 12 months||$12.99/mo for a monthly subscription|
Privacy Laws and Bans in the UK
Censorship and invasions of privacy are nothing new in any part of the world, including the UK. In 2016, the British government legalized mass surveillance of citizens through the Investigatory Powers Act, aptly nicknamed the “Snoopers Charter”. It not only gives intelligence organizations the right to spy on British citizens but also to do it with little to no oversight and regulations.
The following are just a handful of other things that UK citizens have working against their right to privacy.
5, 9, and 14 Eyes Alliances
The Snoopers’ Charter is not the only thing British citizens should worry about when it comes to being spied on. Agencies have been doing it for long before that Act was enacted and will continue to do so.
It’s no secret that the United States has an intelligence agency that collects data on people. What most people are unaware of is that so does pretty much every country around the globe. Though there is certainly some disagreement as to whether or not it happens, the truth is that these agencies are not supposed to spy on their own citizens.
To get around this, some countries have chosen to cooperate with one another and share the intelligence they gather. There are three particular groups that do this. The first is the 5 Eyes which includes an official alliance between the following countries:
- New Zealand
The second is the 9 Eyes group, which consists of the previously listed 5 countries as well as the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, and France. This is more of an unofficial pact for sharing intelligence.
Lastly, there is the 14 Eyes intelligence group. It consists of the same members of the 5 Eyes and 9 Eyes as well as Italy, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and Belgium. Its original purpose was to learn of the USSR’s plans, but it has adapted over the years.
What these three groups mean for people around the world is that someone is always watching. Someone – whether your own country or another one – is constantly working to gather data on you. And, it’s not only shared with your own government but is up for grabs to other countries in any of these alliances. This violation of privacy has to be stopped on the front lines by you.
UK Porn Ban
In an attempt to prevent children from being corrupted by adult websites, the UK has fought to put a porn ban into effect. This ban is designed to be sure that no one can access pornographic content online until they have passed rigorous age checks. While it is commendable that the UK is trying to limit children’s access to such content, it also means violating adult users’ privacy.
Many countries censor content they do not want their countrymen to access. In the UK, some content that has been historically censored to the point of being called “overblocked” fall into the following categories:
- Suicide prevention
- Drug advice
- Child protection
- Support for abuse victims and sexual addictions
- Government and politics
- Sex education
Violations of User Rights
With the laws, bans, and extreme censorship in many categories, there is a lot of concern about citizens’ rights being violated. After all, a lot of censored content is educational.
As censorship gets stricter, more and more UK citizens are looking for a way to access blocked content. One way to do this is to get a VPN.
Are VPNs Legal in the UK?
As VPNs allow people to access geo-restricted content, they are typically worried about whether or not using one is legal. UK law does not forbid the use of a VPN.
However, VPNs that operate out of the UK are subject to those geo-restrictions, meaning that they must restrict access to any sites the UK government restricts. VPNs that are based in and operate from other countries are subject to that country’s laws.
When choosing your VPN, be sure that you choose one based in a country that does not restrict access to the content you want. In this case, you would need a VPN that has servers outside of the UK in order to access content that is blocked in the UK. Fortunately, you have many VPNs to choose from, and the options I talked about above are some of the best free and premium options available.
What conclusion can we draw about VPNs in the UK?
When choosing a VPN, think of what your priorities are. If you need a VPN mostly for streaming look for the one that doesn’t put data caps and shows great results in speed tests. If your priorities lie strictly in privacy and security, pay attention to a VPN’s data logging policy and various security features.
I hope that the VPN list above helps you choose the service that fits your needs best.