When using a VPN-service, each possible conclusion on a specific user may torpedo the construct of anonymity. Mullvad now tries to further reduce this risk by stripping down a specific payment option.
As Mullvad, the friendly VPN-provider from Gothenburg, Sweden has recently announced, the company stripped the possibility of creating new PayPal- and credit card-subscriptions on recurring payments for their well-known Mullvad VPN-service. While this may sound alien at the first look, there are good reasons to do so while the classic one-time payments aren’t affected at all.
Less knowledge, less evidence
The company strives to know as little as possible about its users and while this makes Mullvad surely one of the best VPN-providers, revealing any kind of information on the specific user can be theoretical lever of exposing the users’s identity. „Privacy is a universal right“ says Mullvad and, therefore, always thinks how to further reduce the user’s footprints in the company’s systems. A true fact: Nowhere the tension between privacy and usability is more apparent than in the area of payments.
Of course there always needs some data to be collected and saved in case of lost account recovering or providing refunds. Mullvad handles this quite prosaic: As soon as the company doesn’t need the data to enable refunding a payment, it just scrubs the record of anything that can link the payment or the account to any personally identifiable information kept by the payment processor – like a bank account or a PayPal-address, for example.
Hence, according to Mullvad, when it comes to subscriptions or recurring payments, it is that this link to the specific payment needs to be preserved for the duration of the subscription. In other words, a subscription lasting 12 months will force your beloved VPN-provider to keep the link for each single moment of the twelve months while a one-time payment for the same amount of time would only require to keep it for the first few weeks.
On the decision to remove subscriptions
Subscription always come with a certain grade of convenience and so the folks at Mullvad weighted that the price of potentially leaking information versus being convenient in the terms of paying wasn’t a bargain. Mullvad officially states that, with this move, there may (and will!) be a change in losing usability but, on the other hand, privacy has to win when it comes down to the final invoice payed by the user. Starting with yesterday, Mullvad will no longer accept any new PayPal- or credit card-subscriptions. Alas, all existing subscriptions will keep working as usual for at least six months but if they are canceled or expire they cannot be renewed on a long-term basis.
The user has to adopt this change with (obviously) lacking comfort and Mullvad even encourages us to cancel active subscriptions within the next six months and replace it with a one-time payment to avoid any unexpected disruptions. All payments use the same flat pricing model so there shouldn’t be any reasons to go for a several-month-subscriptions paid in advance for whatever reason.
Mullvad sums up the changes in four aspects:
- The company is removing the ability to create new subscriptions on all accounts
- Existing subscriptions will be processed for at least six months
- One-time payments are not affected
Last but not least the company states that it is doing this to store less data about its users on terms on privacy.
And, well, if privacy isn’t the main reason to use a VPN-service for legal reasons, why should we use one? If you really back on a proper VPN-service then privacy should be in the centre of all your considerations – and, in the worst case, any piece of information leading back to you should be scrambled.
Reconsidering my usage of Mullvad, nothing changed and maybe your usage scenario will be similar. Mullvad’s pricing remains as fair and flexible as always and it is good to see that the company is still thinking about reducing the user’s footprints, even if this comes along with reduced comfort.