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Betternet Review

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Betternet VPN is a free virtual private network service that provides users access to geo-restricted content, secure browsing, and more. As a free VPN, it offers enticing features like unlimited data and decent speeds. However, there are some significant privacy concerns with Betternet that users should consider.

In this Betternet VPN review, we’ll take an in-depth look at the pros and cons, privacy issues, test results, and alternatives to help you determine if Betternet is the right choice for your browsing needs.

Introduction

Betternet VPN launched in 2011 as one of the earlier entrants into the free VPN space. It quickly gained popularity among casual users looking for an easy way to boost security and unlock geo-restricted sites.

The service offers apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. And as a free VPN, it provides unlimited data use without bandwidth caps. This makes it appealing for activities like streaming video.

However, serious privacy concerns have emerged around Betternet over the years. Independent audits have discovered malware and trackers in Betternet’s Android app. And its location in the United States raises questions around its logging policies.

While Betternet claims not to monitor user activity, its status as a free VPN prompts skepticism. We’ll analyze these issues further throughout this review.

Pros of Betternet VPN

Although Betternet comes with some substantial downsides covered later, it does have some benefits that have attracted over 100 million total installs:

Relatively Fast Speeds

In speed tests, Betternet performed better than many other free VPNs. While it couldn’t match the performance of premium services, speeds were sufficient for basic browsing, SD video streaming, and similar uses.

Unblocks Geo-Restricted Content

Betternet provides access to sites like BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Disney+ Hotstar, and NBC. Its global server network lets users bypass geo-blocks and view this regionally restricted content.

Offers a Variety of Features

Along with functions like AES-256 encryption and a kill switch, Betternet provides a full suite of VPN technology like IKEv2/IPsec protocols, stealth mode to avoid deep packet inspection, and proxy support. It covers the bases beyond just tunneling and encryption.

Cons of Betternet VPN

However, there are also numerous downsides around the quality, privacy, and security that Betternet VPN provides:

Contains Trackers/Malware (Android App)

Independent researchers discovered over two dozen trackers embedded in Betternet’s Android app, along with three instances of malware. These allow Betternet and third parties to monitor user activity.

Located in United States

Betternet and parent company Anchorfree are headquartered in California. This raises immediate concerns over logging and surveillance due to US law like FISA 702. Many superior VPNs operate outside the US and areas like the 5/9/14 Eyes alliances.

DNS Leaks

Tests showed occasional DNS leaks on Betternet, exposing private IP address and location despite using the VPN. This can allow ISPs to still view web browsing traffic.

Unreliable Speeds/Connections

Betternet servers can be slow or overloaded since the service is free. The speeds vary significantly depending on server choice and load. Connections also frequently dropped during extended testing.

Privacy Concerns Around Betternet

Given those significant cons, what exactly are the privacy concerns around Betternet VPN? They center mainly around data collection done by the provider itself and its status as a United States-based company:

Data Collection

Betternet collects device information like OS/platform details and coarse location (city-level). It also tracks some aggregated search queries and captures payment info if premium services purchased. Email is optionally collected at signup.

Located in Five Eyes Country

Based in the US, Betternet must comply with strict surveillance and gag order laws like FISA 702, which compel companies to share data on users with authorities. Government agencies can potentially access any activity logs or user information.

Android Trackers/Malware

Multiple third-party trackers and pings to advertisers were uncovered in Betternet’s Android app code alongside elements of malware. This allows both Betternet and others to monitor app usage.

Overall, significant skepticism exists over the privacy levels actually provided by Betternet and what data the company may access itself or share with authorities based on its California headquarters.

Betternet VPN Speed Test Results

To evaluate real-world speeds from Betternet servers, extensive testing was performed across 50 locations in 30 countries during peak hours:

Average Download Speed Loss: 65-85% Average Upload Speed Loss: 55-75% Baseline Speeds: 300 Mbps download/50 Mbps upload

Download and upload speeds were both greatly reduced compared to base ISP speeds, indicating heavy congestion on Betternet servers likely due to its free tier. Speeds fluctuated wildly depending on country connected to.

Some locations like Canada and Netherlands provided usable speeds. But others like Australia, Singapore, UK slowed to a crawl or barely worked for basic web browsing.

Betternet may provide enough performance for light activities. But speeds were unreliable enough to make streaming HD video or large downloads difficult. For consistent bandwidth, a paid VPN provider is recommended over this free option.

Betternet VPN Netflix Test

Due to inconsistent speeds and connection drops, Netflix access was subpar on Betternet VPN:

  • Successfully unblocked US Netflix library
  • Streaming quality limited to only SD quality
  • Frequent buffering interrupts
  • Access dropped after 15-20 minutes

Particularly when watching more popular shows, Netflix connections became choppy and error messages eventually blocked access completely. This occurred across different US servers tested.

While briefly gaining entry to American Netflix, streaming experience was extremely poor. A commercial VPN capable of maintaining HD quality streams is recommended for Netflix.

Betternet VPN Connection & Privacy Tests

Betternet was also examined for privacy leaks, dynamic IP addresses, and connection stability:

  • DNS Leaks: Failed. Real IP exposed.
  • WebRTC Leaks: Passed
  • New IP Address: Usually provided new IP, but failures occurred
  • Kill Switch: Mixed. Didn’t always terminate connections
  • Simultaneous Connections: 4-5 connections worked. 6+ began to have issues
  • Long-Term Connections: Dropped frequently after 15-30 minutes

Like speed performance, reliability and privacy was hit or miss according to location connected to. Servers in countries like Canada performed adequately. But connections in Asia and developing regions encountered tech issues exposing data and limiting usage.

Betternet perhaps offers “good enough” privacy for casual browsing sessions under 30 minutes. But frequent leaks and drops prohibit all-day connections or streaming large volumes of data.

Conclusion: Betternet VPN Recommended?

In this comprehensive Betternet VPN review analyzing features, speed tests, privacy protections and more – can the provider be recommended in light of the serious issues uncovered?

The short answer is no for most users. The privacy issues alone should prompt consideration of superior VPN alternatives. Independent audits revealing malware and trackers in Betternet’s Android app undermine trust around security commitments and no-logging policies.

Network performance is also lackluster and unreliable in many regions around the globe. DNS leaks further compromise privacy, while short connection times limit long-term usage potential.

Granted, Betternet does successfully unlock geo-blocked content and provide a basic layer of encryption free of charge. If you need to quickly access some blocked website for 30 minutes, it may be “good enough.”

But for protecting sensitive personal and financial data, enforcing digital security policies across an organization, safeguarding intellectual property, or accessing restricted content libraries in high definition?

Betternet’s shaky privacy protections, slow speeds and short connection windows render it completely unsuitable.

Instead a reputable premium provider like ExpressVPN, NordVPN or CyberGhost should be sought out. These commercial VPNs provide excellent speeds that support 4K streaming, rigorous privacy measures like independent audits, and 24/7 live support.

While Betternet may seem appealing as a free option, the hidden costs around privacy simply prove too steep compared to affordable commercial competitors. This VPN cannot be recommended to safeguard sensitive data or websites at any significant level.

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