Based in the USA, Private Internet Access (PIA) is a VPN package that places particular emphasis on privacy and security features, even by the standards of the VPN industry. The USA has no data retention laws currently in place and PIA has a clear and explicit no-logging policy. If you don't want your name associated with your subscription, you can pay using bitcoin or a gift card, but only from major US retailers.
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PIA provides a number of advanced features over its rivals, with a specific eye to ensuring user privacy. These include a "VPN kill switch" that disables your connection to the internet if your VPN is disconnected. It also has IPv6 leak protection that temporarily disables IPv6 to prevent unwanted identifying data from being accidentally transmitted, plus DNS leak protection that directs all DNS requests through a non-logging DNS service.
Unusually, PIA also provides a port-forwarding service, which gives you a randomly allocated incoming port on one of a handful of PIA servers that support the feature. You can then configure any local application that needs to be able to accept incoming connections to use.
At the time of review, PIA had more than 3,000 active servers in 25 countries, including the USA, the UK, Canada, India, Australia, Japan, Russia, Hong Kong and much of Europe. It's one of the few VPN service providers that enabled us to consistently connect to Netflix in the USA and, as with most of its rivals, we had no trouble with region-locked YouTube and BBC iPlayer video feeds, either.
Like other services that provide effective connections to US video-streaming sites, FTP download speeds from PIA's US servers were a little disappointing, but we were pleased by relatively quick European connections, with a London server providing speeds of more than 40Mbits/sec.
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Private Internet Access' desktop application is rather understated. Apart from a few configuration settings, you'll primarily interact with a notification area icon that lets you quickly connect to a server from PIA's pool in the country and city of your choice. Applications are available for Windows, MacOS X, Android and iOS, and PIA provides detailed instructions for setting up connections on other operating systems and devices.
PIA frequently runs discounted special-offer pricing for its subscriptions. For example, although the full price for subscription is $6.95 (£4.83) per month, $41.70 (£28.95) for six months and $83.40 (£57.90) for a year, at the time of review, an annual subscription was on sale for at $39.95 (£27.74).
Although Private Internet Access doesn't have as wide a range of VPN endpoints as Hide My Ass, its country list is substantial and a huge number of individual servers make up its pool. It's one of the few services that Netflix doesn't immediately spot and provides far stronger privacy-orientated features than your average VPN. Performance, although rather slow on popular US servers, was consistent and the privacy-conscious will also welcome PIA's explicit no-logging policy.
Baseline prices make Privacy Internet Access one of the more expensive VPN services around. But regular special offers, along with a fantastic number of endpoints and a broad range of privacy features mean that it's easily one of the best. If you need incoming port forwarding, it's one of the few VPN providers that offers the feature on any of its servers.