This VPN map shows the relationships between VPN companies, their corporate owners, and paid affiliates who profit from reviewing them positively. It includes information on latest community news, ownership changes, and is updated periodically. Every proven relationship between media companies, content sites, corporate VPNs, and independent VPNs that we could find. Use the key below to easily see the links between these entities.
Not All VPNs Are Equal
The purpose of this map is to highlight the secretly toxic side of the VPN industry, to champion the few heroes in our space that exist, and to showcase how much that corporate spending dictates public opinion of which VPN is best. This map shows the links between VPNs, their actual owners, paid affiliates, and media organizations.
The paid incentive to lie for profit
The overwhelming majority of VPN comparison sites aren’t providing their services for free.
They get kickbacks. These are disclosed as “affiliate fees” and they earn a set commission per sale.
The most popular VPN review websites can earn tens of thousands of dollars per month simply for providing a link directly to VPNs they are partnered with. In an ideal world, the merits of the VPN being reviewed would prevent these websites from changing their scores.
Unfortunately, after reviewing these sites ourselves we have found that not a single affiliate site on the front page of Google adheres to that principle.
Instead, even VPNs that have suffered breaches, disclosed user information, have security vulnerabilities, or lack technical features displayed by other VPNs score higher.
Because the financial incentive is too strong. With the VPN industry worth $44.6B currently and predicted to break $77B within 3 years the margin for profit will only grow. We can only hope to draw attention to this so people will do their own research and find the solutions that serve them best.
As with Windscribe our biggest source of growth is by referrals. By the technically-minded who find we suit their needs and they refer us to their friends in need of similar solutions.
Friendly branding, uncaring ownership
A lot of VPNs have cute branding but vicious owners. While their design team is marvelous, little can be said about those that own said companies.
ExpressVPN, famously known previously as Kape, got into the game by creating malware and seeking ways to scrape personal information. Not hide it. Their owner Teddy Sagi has been served multiple lawsuits pertaining to fraud. Nord VPN’s owners, Tesonet, are well known for their work in data-mining and collection. That’s just two quick examples.
The VPN space should be first and foremost about privacy and while people can change – companies rarely do. Their legacies paint a pretty clear picture about what they value and what they see as important.
Many VPNs also have the same corporate owner. You’ll notice in the map many VPNs are actually part of the same brand. They have a different paint job, but same engine – as it were.
Corporate acquisitions to change brand perceptions
Many VPNs featured here have suffered data breaches and loss of customer records. Some have bowed to LEO requests and provided customer data. These events should be something that breaks a VPN company altogether.
Yet corporate VPNs have other options available to them.
They can simply buy referral sites or buy competitors. Kape, the owners of ExpressVPN, bought Webselenese—giving them control over Safety Detectives and VPNMentor. What should be noted here is that ExpressVPN paid more for these content affiliate websites than they did for some actual VPN companies they acquired.
The affiliate programs that have been mentioned are one thing. But in the VPN space we often have queries from content sites telling us that they will only feature us if we are willing to pay thousands of dollars. While as a small independent VPN we don’t have the budget to pay for this coverage – the larger corporate VPNs certainly do have the budget. As many pay hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to be featured on content sites, have positive news spun about them, and for YouTubers and other influencers to paint them in a positive light.
Some of their partners even go so far to paint other VPNs not affiliated with them poorly.
False representations of threat modeling can cost lives
While a small technical hiccup or mistake can be an issue, outright lying about the threat model a VPN can secure can be dangerous.
In fact, the misrepresentation of what a VPN can do can be outright deadly.
We serve our users across all regions. However, the geopolitics involved can be rather dicey. We often get requests from activists, protestors, and NGOs in countries where information is severely restricted and accessing said information could lead to imprisonment or even death.
While some users just want to expand their digital libraries or keep their habits secret – many of our users are trying to fight for a better tomorrow in their country. They are trying to fight for the rights of their fellow citizens.
They may not however have the technical know-how to properly defend themselves. While we can all point to marketing hype and say “Well, they should know!” you have to consider the fact that information for them may be hard to come by or discern.
Which is why we think it is very important to not misrepresent what a VPN can do. Even at the cost of losing customers.
"Zero logs VPN, no Logs VPN!" until caught
Many VPNs tout a robust no-logs approach to their userbase. Typically, as a sales tactic to ensure that people sign up. Yet we have discovered over the years that while they say one thing – it comes to light they were actually tracking users after all.
There are some less extreme examples of this such as tracking on websites for business reasons.
Here at Windscribe, we have zero user-tracking for marketing purposes and a strict no-log policy. But, many of our competitors have a lot of tracking and ways to fingerprint users on their website to help their ad campaigns sell more VPN licenses.
However, the worst case situation is that they lie about not tracking users and then they get hit with a LEO request they bow down to. That they did actually track that user all along and provide user logs and user information to the authorities. Just to avoid the hassle of being taken to court.
Here at Windscribe we take transparency to be a very important point of trust. Which is why we highly recommend you pay attention to our Transparency Report.
We hold user privacy and security to that same high standard. Our server locations all operate with RAM-only diskless setups. So that even if we are served a judgment, they raid our offices and confiscate servers, they cannot recover anything. In fact, despite a few years ago our servers running an older industry standard – when raided by the authorities they found absolutely nothing.
We even disclosed a vulnerability that could have been used which has long since been fixed that other VPNs can still fall prey to. Because once again transparency is important to us. While we are lucky that it was never attempted with us even though we have warned other VPNs of this issue many have chosen to ignore us, as fixing it would be costly and require a significant overhaul of their systems.
Which as you’re aware from reading this page you’ve learned that many more companies prefer profit over performance.
The rapidly decreasing pool of non-corporate VPNs
We’d like to end this by giving a stark warning. To the right of the map you will see a small pool of VPNs with a little green circle.
That denotes that they are independent of corporate owners. That they alone hold the keys to their systems, that they determine their growth, and the direction they head.
Each year corporate VPN owners buy more media companies, buy more VPNs, and attempt to strangle newcomers to the scene.
While untested and unknown VPNs can be a danger themselves...There are only a handful of surviving independents that can be trusted with your data.
We hope that others will be as stalwart as us. Refusing offers of buyout, refusing to sell to the highest bidder, but ultimately this may not be the case.
So keep your eye on the map, keep yourself educated, and support the VPNs that suit you best.
Because these powerful corporately owned VPNs are doing their utmost to hobble everyone else just so they can control the VPN space and ultimately – you.