Hotspot Shield is a free VPN launched by AnchorFree in 2008. Today, the service also features a premium iteration called Hotspot Shield Elite. Since its inception, over 500 million people worldwide have installed this VPN.
As always, we’ll focus on the premium version of the service, so if you want to know more about the company’s logging policy and measures implemented to safeguard your online privacy and security, keep reading this post to learn what information Hotspot Shield collects and how it protects you from the prying eyes of hackers and government agencies.
AnchorFree is a US company based in Menlo Park, California. As we know, the US is not an ideal location for VPN users due to frequent warrants and gag orders. The US is also a member of the notorious Five Eyes intelligence alliance, alongside Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.
This means that government agencies can order VPN providers to hand over personal user data and even issue a gag order to make specific users unaware of this fact. This can, of course, be avoided by implementing a strict no-logging policy and simply not having any personal information to provide. Not many VPN providers do this, however, even though the US still doesn’t have any mandatory data retention laws. Additionally, the gathered intel can also be shared internationally through the convoluted data network behind the Five Eyes.
Bottom line, the US is one of the worst locations for VPNs, but all the potential dangers can be nullified with a “bulletproof” zero-logging policy.
Hotspot Shield collects two types of information:
- The data you provide – This section includes the information you’ll have to provide if you decide to create your personal account (email and payment information).
- Automatically collected information – Every time you launch Hotspot Shield, the software will collect your IP address. However, it will be deleted the moment you end your session. Apart from this, the company will also receive data regarding your hardware model, language, operating system version, wireless or mobile network, browser type, the websites you visit, and the apps you use.
We don’t like the amount of information collected by Hotspot Shield, especially when we take the company’s fuzzy definition of an IP address into account. Is it regarded as personal data or not? Not quite sure. As we already mentioned, the company is based in the US, which means all the collected information can be requested by the authorities at any given point. Furthermore, the company claims that no direct connection can be established between your IP address and your online traffic, which is very difficult to believe.