How to Tell If You’re Being Tracked on VPN

You’re on a free Wi-Fi network at a café, café con queso or coffee shop when a stranger approaches you. They say something like “Hey, beautiful! I love your hair” or “Did you forget something?” and before you know it, your personal information—including your wireless network information—is being sold to marketing companies. Welcome to the near future, where your every move is being tracked and sold to advertisers.

You can avoid being tracked on public Wi-Fi by using a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs are typically more expensive than regular Wi-Fi connections but, as with most things in life, there is a trade-off. If you want to keep your personal information private on public Wi-Fi, you need to pay more for a VPN connection. However, with all the tracking that goes on behind the scenes on public Wi-Fi, you might not want to avoid it entirely. Maybe you use public Wi-Fi to do research about a disease she’s been diagnosed with or want to read an article about the most popular luxury goods, or meet up with friends for lunch later on. In that case, it’s worth the privacy trade-off.

The Difference In Quality

Let’s start by talking about the difference in quality between a free Wi-Fi signal and a paid VPN connection. The signal on a free Wi-Fi network is usually strong enough for anyone to connect to it, which is great for offering connections to everyone around you. However, the signals are often unstable and there’s a lot of interference, making it hard for customers to reliably connect to the network. This is why most free Wi-Fi networks are found in cafés and coffee shops: to attract customers and retain them by providing a good experience.

By comparison, a VPN connection is usually much faster than a free Wi-Fi connection, because your traffic is encrypted as it travels. This means you won’t have to wait as long for websites and other online applications to load, which is great if you’re impatient like me.

Features

VPNs give you the privacy and security you need when you’re on public Wi-Fi. They also provide you with features that make your experience more enjoyable. Some of the features you might want or need include:

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