With privacy scandals and security breaches dominating news headlines, more and more people are signing up with a VPN service.
A properly configured VPN hides people’s IP-addresses from online snoopers and state of the art encryption also protects against some malicious attacks.
While that sound like a good idea, there’s a catch. In return for this protection, all your traffic is routed through the VPN provider, which means that you’re putting a lot of trust in the company.
We have addressed this issue in the past and were happy to see that it was also highlighted by Francis Dinha, the CEO of OpenVPN Inc, which owns the software which many VPN services rely on.
Dinha rightfully points out that picking the right VPN requires some careful thought. This was also one of the reasons why we previously began compiling our yearly overview of various VPN policies.
As we read further, however, the advice goes in an unexpected direction. Many people believe that VPNs are supposed to be content-neutral, but Dinha warns against using a VPN with BitTorrent and the dark web.
“Use of the wrong VPN to go through BitTorrent and access the dark web just to get to ‘free’ content exposes you to bad actors who can extract value out of whatever you’re receiving in other ways,” he writes in a Forbes piece.
“Such practices put you at risk of running afoul of piracy, copyright violation and fraud laws. Unrestricted access also exposes you to malware and viruses and a lack of protection entirely from the risks in the dark web.”
We fail to see how BitTorrent is linked to the dark web. It is nothing more than a file-transfer protocol, after all. And even if it is somehow related, what has that got to do with a VPN?
It’s not a secret that BitTorrent has a piracy stigma. And it makes sense to advise people not to break the law, with or without a VPN, but Dinha goes quite a few steps further. In the article, he recommends that people use a VPN that blocks BitTorrent traffic.
“For all these reasons, it’s essential to choose a VPN that doesn’t allow the use of BitTorrent and follows all applicable United States laws. It’s the only way to protect yourself against liability,” he stresses.
So, for some reason, a VPN that allows BitTorrent traffic causes liability issues? That’s a bit far-fetched, to say the least, because all regular ISPs allow BitTorrent traffic just fine. And for a good reason.
BitTorrent has plenty of legal use cases and companies including Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter all use it internally. If the Comcasts, Bells, and Virgin Medias of this world don’t block it, why should a VPN?
Calling for a BitTorrent ban isn’t very open for a company that’s called OpenVPN, and it remains a mystery why and how that might shield users from “liability.” Perhaps it’s a PR plug for OpenVPN’s own VPN service PrivateTunnel?
Well, that brings us to a rather ironic situation.
Considering the comments from OpenVPN’s CEO, we would expect PrivateTunnel to ban all BitTorrent traffic outright. However, when we asked the VPN’s support desk we were informed that P2P ‘blocking’ rules are not enabled in the Netherlands and Switzerland. Hmmm…
Anyway, those who prefer a more open VPN that allows all traffic, just like their regular ISP, can find a long list of BitTorrent-friendly VPNs here.