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So far, so good, right? Well, not everything is as peachy as it seems. Private Tunnel's headquarters are in the US, which is a huge black mark! Everyone should already know about terrible US data retention laws and shady governmental institutions. If you are on the lookout for a VPN that prioritizes complete privacy, Private Tunnel isn't going to be a safe bet.
As I mentioned earlier, Private Tunnel is the commercial child of OpenVPN Technologies, the company responsible for the OpenVPN protocol. This (theoretically) should give consumers plenty of reason for optimism, as OpenVPN is the most secure VPN protocol out there.
Private Tunnel has 12 locations available in 9 countries, including places such as Germany, US, UK, and Hong Kong. The measly amount of servers is somewhat underwhelming when compared to ExpressVPN (136+ locations) or HMA (300+ locations).
At the time of writing this Private Tunnel review, both Netflix and BBC iPlayer cannot be accessed using Private Tunnel. If you are looking to unblock these streaming services, check out these (working) recommendations for Netflix VPN and and iPlayer VPN services.
Private Tunnel is pretty generous when it comes to connecting with multiple devices. Signing up to the fixed data plans allow you to connect an unlimited number of devices to the service at the same time. The annual plan with unlimited bandwidth allows up to 10 simultaneous connections, which should be more than enough for an entire household (or group of friends).
Speed and Performance
I conducted speed tests on a few of Private Tunnel's servers (Frankfurt, London, and New York City) to get a better idea of how server performance.
Graphs show highest, lowest and average speeds for each server and location. See our full speed test explanation for more detail.
As you can see, the Germany and UK servers performed quite poorly, both regarding download and upload speeds. It is also worth mentioning that the UK test was near impossible to do as I was constantly getting disconnected from the Internet.
The US results were a little bit better (when compared to Germany and UK), but overall I was pretty disappointed at the huge drop-offs in speed.
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (average)
On a slightly more positive note, none of the Private Tunnel servers I tested showed any DNS or IP leaks.
Private Tunnel takes a slightly different approach than most VPN providers when it comes to pricing. In addition to a free trial with 2 GBs of data, Private Tunnel has two data capped plans and one annual, unlimited data plan.
This pricing format should be attractive for those who simply need a fixed amount of data without a monthly subscription. 10 or 20 GBs should be plenty to stream a few sports events or movies or to use while traveling. The annual unlimited package with ten connections at 29.99 a year (only 2.49 a month!) is a great option for households or groups of friends.
As I mentioned already, Private Tunnel offers a free 2 GB trial to see if the service is right for you. If you do end up purchasing, Private Tunnel has a variation of full and pro-rata money back guarantees.
Private Tunnel accepts all the usual payment types, including bank transfer, PayPal, credit cards. I was also happy to see that Bitcoin as an option (through Stripe), as this can increase the level of anonymity.
Ease of Use
PrivateTunnel currently supports Windows, Mac, iOS 6.1+ and Android 4.0+ mobile devices. Linux users can also get Private Tunnel working, although this will require some prior experience with the command line interface.
It is worth noting that with a little bit of extra legwork, (downloading configuration files) Private Tunnel can also work on a variety of devices and operating systems.
I gave Private Tunnel a try on my iPhone to see how easy it was to setup and get connected to the service (OpenVPN). I was pleased to be set up and ready to connect in just a few short minutes.
Private Tunnel does not currently support Windows Phone or Blackberry but is looking into changing this in the future.
The second major issue I had with Private Tunnel was the absence of options when it comes to customer support. Email support coupled with a relatively small FAQ is fairly disappointing. Business hours for Private Tunnel are Monday-Friday, 9-5(PST).
To get a better idea of just how quickly Private Tunnel responds to emails, I sent them an email with a few questions regarding filesharing. I sent the email at 4 AM PST and got a proper response just a few hours later.
Private Tunnel is also active on Facebook and Twitter, with both of these profiles being used to post helpful information and communicate with customers.
Privacy and Security
As I mentioned already, Private Tunnel is in the US, meaning it could be subject to tremendous legal pressure when it comes to handing over customer data. Legislation such as the Stored Communications Act further tips the scale in the federal government's favor.
For anyone in denial over the worrying state of privacy in the US, the recent Edward Snowden revelations or the FBI vs. Apple controversy should shed further light on the matter.
As far as encryption goes, Private Tunnel protects your data transmissions with 128-bit AES-GCM encryption. GCM (Galois/Counter Mode) is a proven security model that mostly avoids excessive speed restrictions without compromising safety.
While Private Tunnel doesn't claim to keep any activity logs, some connection logs do get saved. Private Tunnel claims only to use these for monitoring performance and maintenance. Private Tunnel also states: "We respect your privacy. We are not interested in what you do on the internet." While this is a nice touch, I'd like to see an entirely log-free service before recommending Private Tunnel as a completely secure VPN.
Private Tunnel doesn't explicitly forbid P2P activity, but it does comply with DMCA notices and actively terminates accounts which take part in copyright infringement.
For information about using a VPN when torrenting, take a look at the best VPN for torrent sites.
Private Tunnel is a unique service due to being heavily affiliated with the OpenVPN protocol. As a result, I was curious to see the details behind Private Tunnel, and how it would compare to other VPNs. While the OpenVPN mark is there, being based in the US means anyone looking for a truly anonymous experience is better served searching elsewhere. Toss in some questionable server test results and Private Tunnel is a VPN you probably want to avoid.
All in all, Private Tunnel's single purchase plans and user-friendly approach might be right for groups or those looking to spend some time overseas. Check out the free 2 GB trial using the link below and let us know your experiences, good or bad.