PrivateTunnel is the product of OpenVPN Technologies, the company and people behind the industry-leading OpenVPN protocol. So it should be a great VPN, right?
Wrong. It’s mediocre at best. Performance is decent but we can’t say the same for the level of privacy offered.
The logging policy says it collects personally identifiable data such as your original IP address, and PrivateTunnel is based in the US – a big thumbs down for privacy. Encryption isn’t the strongest, there’s no VPN kill switch, and it can’t be counted on to unlock services like Netflix.
PrivateTunnel definitely didn’t live up to our expectations.
Pricing & Deals
PrivateTunnel is very cheap, even if you choose to pay month-by-month.
Many VPNs work out at $6 a month on yearly plans, but PrivateTunnel costs the same amount for a month’s commitment.
You can save 50% if you do sign up for a year, though, bringing the monthly price down to just $2.92.
Get 51% off PrivateTunnel's 12-month plan
PrivateTunnel Pricing & Deals
PrivateTunnel doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee like most VPNs, but you can test it out for free for seven days, no strings attached. This gives you access to the full service with unlimited data.
Just sign up with your email address; there are no payment details required, making it completely risk-free.
PrivateTunnel only accepts major debit and credit cards and PayPal, which is pretty limiting.
It doesn’t accept any cryptocurrencies or international methods like AliPay.
Speed & Reliability
PrivateTunnel is pretty fast if you connect using OpenVPN UDP (not TCP) but it’s still got nothing on our super speedy top-tier providers.
Downloads peaked at 54Mbps connecting locally but slowed down on UK-US connections reaching 20Mbps. It’ll still be fast enough for HD streaming, though.
Uploads were very fast locally, peaking at almost 70Mbps, but torrenters should be aware that PrivateTunnel doesn’t allow P2P on any of its servers.
Gamers will be disappointed too since ping times are quite high, coming in at around 16ms locally.
To read about our speed testing methodologies, please read How We Review VPNs.
PrivateTunnel doesn’t offer many server locations at just 22 cities in 12 countries. The majority are located in Europe and North America but Hong Kong provides some coverage in Asia-Pacific.
Although there is a Japan server advertised, it actually gave us a US IP address when we connected to it.
If you need to connect out from South America, Africa, or Australasia, PrivateTunnel won’t give you the performance levels you require.
There are 11 city-level servers in the US, which is a bonus for such a small network, and allows US users to pinpoint their location for optimal performance.
Platforms & Devices
PrivateTunnel has a pretty limited range of custom apps which include Microsoft Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS, and you can use it on up to three devices at once.
There are simple guides on PrivateTunnel’s website for setting up the VPN on Linux devices and compatible routers (OpenWRT and DD-WRT) but this does require some manual configuration.
While we’d usually say that configuring a router with the VPN would protect all internet-connected devices in your home (e.g. games consoles and streaming devices), PrivateTunnel’s live chat agents said that they can’t guarantee this will work with the Amazon Fire TV for example. They couldn’t give us a good reason why, though.
Streaming & Torrenting
PrivateTunnel is not designed for unblocking streaming services. In fact, there’s a support page which informs users that they may not be able to access Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer while connected.
We actually could watch Netflix through the Miami server but there’s no guarantee this will last. Netflix continues to crack down on VPN providers and PrivateTunnel isn’t putting resources into offering a solution.
If you like torrenting, PrivateTunnel isn’t for you either as it doesn’t support P2P activity at all. If you want a VPN that is excellent for both streaming and torrenting look no further than ExpressVPN.
Encryption & Security
Considering its ownership, It comes as no shock that PrivateTunnel uses OpenVPN as its only VPN protocol. OpenVPN offers the best balance between performance and privacy but, unfortunately, PrivateTunnel doesn’t pair it with the strongest encryption available. AES-128, which PrivateTunnel employs, is pretty strong – but 256-bit is stronger.
Make sure to connect through either TCP or UDP since the other ‘protocols’ on offer are actually proxies, so aren’t as secure.
We were disappointed to discover that PrivateTunnel doesn’t have a VPN kill switch, which would cut internet traffic in the case of a drop in the VPN connection. This essential security feature helps prevent your ISP or any on-path snoopers from seeing your personal data and browsing activities.
Thankfully, PrivateTunnel has its own DNS servers and we experienced no DNS or WebRTC leaks during our independent tests, all of which go some way to stopping third parties from seeing what you do online.
- OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)
- First-party DNS
- Supports TCP Port 443
PrivateTunnel openly states in its FAQs that the service is unlikely to work in China, and other high-censorship countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Iran.
If you are looking for a reliable VPN to use in any of these countries, we’d recommend opting for a VPN that includes a stealth protocol and plenty of nearby servers such as Astrill.
While PrivateTunnel promises that it doesn’t track your online activities, its logging policy is intrusive. It collects and retains the following data for up to 30 days:
- Original IP address
- VPN IP address
- Connection timestamps
- Amount of data consumed per session in bytes
IP addresses and connection timestamps can be used to personally identify you – you should never settle for this.
PrivateTunnel claims that this information is only used for “billing issues, troubleshooting, service offering evaluation [sic], TOS issues, AUP issues, and for helping to prevent criminal activity performed over the service”.
However, many VPNs manage to provide a quality service collecting far less user information.
PrivateTunnel is based in the US, which compounds the already-awful logging policy. The US is known for government surveillance and is part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance.
Even more concerning is PrivacyTunnel’s approach to handing over user information: “We may also release your information when we believe release is appropriate to comply with the law, enforce our site policies, or protect ours or others [sic] rights, property, or safety.”
Ease of Use
PrivateTunnel couldn’t be much simpler to use and, unlike many VPNs out there, it’s not sore on the eyes, either. Just click and connect – there’s no need to mess around with a bunch of settings.
We’d have liked to see some more contextual knowledge about the protocol options available within the settings menu, but other than that there’s no ambiguity within the app.
Our biggest gripe is that the server labeled ‘Japan’ actually connects to the US instead, but we only found this out by running an independent IP checker. The app told us that we’d successfully connected to Japan.
When we asked support about this we were told: “We have no way of ensuring that this will work for the service since PrivateTunnel is not to be used as a “location changer”, which goes against PrivateTunnel’s website marketing:
“Connect your devices or network to any of our servers in the world for unrestricted access to websites and information. Be where you want to be with the confidence of knowing your identity, your data and your connections are secure and private.”
This is either a complete misunderstanding of how its product works on behalf of PrivateTunnel’s so-called tech support, or an outright lie on behalf of its own website. Whichever scenario is reality, it’s a sizable concern.
Even complete beginners will be able to set up PrivateTunnel’s custom apps without a hitch.
Just log into your account on the website, start your seven-day free trial (you can’t skip this), and download the software for your device.
After that it’s a case of clicking through some self-explanatory installation prompts and logging into the app with the same account details.
PrivateTunnel offers fairly basic customer support – the online resources are decent, with some simple setup guides and useful FAQs.
There’s a live chat feature too, but you have to log into your account in order to use it and the quality of the responses was poor.
The agents have very limited technical knowledge and often gave us information that conflicted with that found on the website, such as encryption type and the logging policy.
Thankfully, email support is much more reliable and our questions were answered in detail, even if it did take a few hours to receive a response.
The Bottom Line
- Local speeds fast enough for HD streaming
- Simple custom apps for popular devices
- City-level choice in the US
- Very cheap even on the monthly plan
- Intrusive logging policy & US jurisdiction
- Tiny server network
- No VPN kill switch
- Some connection location issues
- Live chat support needs to be improved
PrivateTunnel let us down. We were expecting great things from the people who developed the industry gold standard VPN protocol, but were left disheartened.
The logging policy is intrusive, it’s based in the privacy-unfriendly US, there’s no VPN kill switch, and weaker encryption than the standard has been used as a compromise to improve performance.
Yes, it may produce fairly quick speeds, but other VPNs provide much faster performance with a robust privacy offering too.