Can a VPN Really Hide Your Online Activity?

It is impossible that you missed the term VPN as long as you've been hanging out on the internet for a few years. It's simple, these VPNs are everywhere and especially in advertising.

One of the glaring examples is the presence of those VPNs that spend millions to appear regularly on many YouTube channels. These then promise you a lot.

One of these big promises is that using their service will make you anonymous online. But is this really true? Can you browse the Internet without anyone knowing what you are doing online? This is what we will see in this article.

A very popular service right now

As we have just told you, although a few years ago, we did not hear about VPNs at all, things have still changed a lot today and they are among those who finance the most advertisements on platforms like YouTube.

Thus, many creators of the platform work regularly with them and put their audience in front of advertisements for these services which then offer you things that are still very attractive on paper.

If we had to summarize the two main arguments of these services, the first is quite simply to be able to change the country of your IP address to access foreign content on platforms like netflix.

But the other commercial argument that will interest us today is that of anonymity. Indeed, if we are to believe the advertisements, no one can know who you are or even spy on your movements through a VPN.

Except that you will see that if overall it is quite true, there are still some limits and it's impossible to be able to browse the net without anyone knowing that you are just browsing.

How does a VPN work?

Before we dive into some details that can be a bit complex, let's start from the beginning, namely, what are VPNs. Overall it is a service that will allow you to hide your IP address.

Without going into details yet, see your IP address as a kind of identity card. Every time you visit a website, you must show this ID card before entering.

This IP address is linked to you and has several advantages. The first is that it allows you to set some features such as cookies to ensure that everything is set in advance during your next visits.

Also, if you cause trouble, we can find you via this IP address. The idea of ​​a VPN, it's going to be to hide it using another IP address, by changing country for example as we saw before.

internet with VPN

You cannot hide your activity from the VPN

Therefore, the website, when it will ask you for your IP address during your connection, you will be able to give that of your VPN provider and on this point, it will therefore not know that it is you who are arriving.

As this connection is encrypted, no one can intercept the data sent over this connection. Your ISP, for example, cannot log the websites you visit, and no one can read the messages or emails you send.

On paper, it is therefore impossible to track you on the internet and on this point, VPNs do not lie. Nevertheless, if your ISP and the site can't track you, your VPN software can easily track you.

Indeed, it is he who gives you this new IP address and each time you want to go to a new website, he is the one who will take action. So if the website in question can't track you, not everyone can.

Beware of sharing user information

This may not seem like much, but it is actually a point that is very important in deciding which service you will choose. If you take a look at the VPN offer, you will quickly notice that there are many prices.

Often we are tempted to go for the cheapest, but that's a mistake. Indeed, the price should not be the only indicator to take into account when making your choice, otherwise you risk unpleasant surprises.

Indeed, for some, low prices hide the fact that to finance themselves, these software practices the resale of information. However, if you use this software to make yourself anonymous, it is not so that your information can be sold for sale.

Therefore, before making your choice, look at the data resale policy, it is very important. If it's quite vague or it clearly states that your data is being resold, run away. Prefer services where the focus is on confidentiality, even if you have to pay more.

You are easily identifiable thanks to the digital fingerprint of your browser

Browser fingerprinting is a way of collecting your data and using it to identify you. And yes, despite using a VPN and hiding your real IP address, it is possible to trace the online activities of a specific person.

How does the collection of information via your browser work?

Every time you go online, your device provides the sites you visit with very specific data. This may include, for example, information about your operating system and settings.

This data can then be compared to the browser characteristics of known people. The analysis may not reveal a person's identity, but may show that the same person performed different activities.

What information is collected via browser fingerprinting

A quick search on the Internet will provide you with a number of sites showing how much data your web browser will provide when asked.

For example, I learn from Am I Unique? that my browser will provide a daunting list of information, including:

  • all fonts available on my system
  • the list of chrome extensions that I have installed
  • my screen resolution
  • my system language
  • the version of the operating system
  •  type of device used to connect to the internet
  • and more.

La full list of what Am I Unique collects is here.

Voila, now you know that VPNs are actually terrible at protecting our internet privacy.

For example, if two visits share the exact same data set, except for the IP address, it would still be possible to infer that these visits came from the same person. This is a particularly useful technique when someone is using a VPN, making their IP address less useful as a point of identification.

Danger of browser fingerprinting

The real danger comes from the possibility that sites like Facebook, with 2,935 billion users, will compile massive databases of browser fingerprinting data.

When popular sites like this get in on the action, then I welcome you to the terrifying world of corporations and governments who will know you better than you know yourself.

Even with a VPN you will leave traces of your passage

Finally, keep in mind, you will never be completely anonymous with a VPN. Even if it does not sell your data, the software, for example, will always be able to know who you are.

Urban artist on some sites, you identify yourself. Indeed, for example on social networks, you will connect and therefore, if the site will not recognize the IP address, it will recognize you.

Finally, know that if you were planning to use a VPN for illegal things, it's not the idea of ​​the century either. Of course it's harder, but we can always find each other because you will inevitably leave traces.


Now you know more about VPNs and confidentiality and especially anonymity that they offer you. If the advertisements are generally true, you still have to be wary of certain points.

One such point is your in-person VPN provider who can sell your data. This is often stated in the terms of sale, but they know as well as you that you hadn't really read them before and they can use this to their advantage.