In recent years, VPN services have noticed a significant rise in the number of VPN users in Australia.
One major reason that made the Australians feel more concerned about their privacy is the introduction of mandatory data retention laws in the country.
We will discuss this law and its implications in the later sections of this article. We will also try to figure out if the isolated geography of the country affects the VPN services in the country.
We will try to figure out all the necessary attributes that a VPN service needs to have to serve the needs of the user in Australia. The impact of local laws and regulations on various VPN services will also make for a good case study.
It will be interesting to see if it is the VPN giants who stay on top in this country as well or some new players turn out to be wildcards in Australia.
By the end of this review, you will have some in-depth knowledge of what makes the Australian case unique when it comes to VPNs. And with this knowledge, there is bound to be a better decision making when choosing a VPN service for this region.
However, there will also be some recommendations at the end of this article just in case you trust us more than yourself (which is not a bad strategy at all).
Are VPNs legal in Australia?
We guess the discussion can’t even start before there is clarification on the legality of VPNs in Australia.
Yes, VPNs are legal in Australia. It is totally fine to use a VPN in Australia as long as it is not being used to carry out any illegal activity.
It is not tough to define what is legal and what is not when it comes to using VPN services. If you copy or download any copyrighted content without the consent of the owner, then it will be deemed an illegal activity.
It may or may not include the use of torrents. Not many people realize that torrenting is illegal only if it is used for piracy and other such related activities.
Accessing geo-restricted content is not a crime. You can circumvent geoblocking and access overseas content without worrying about the repercussions.
The Australian Copyright Act allows the user to access content from other regions with or without the use of a VPN service.
It is a no brainer that activities such as spamming, distributing hateful content, distributing content which depicts minors sexually or explicitly, hacking, etc. will make the use of a VPN service unlawful.
Do Australians need VPN?
Let us first understand what a VPN does.
If you are using a VPN service, then all your internet traffic data is routed through the VPN servers. The traffic sent to these servers from your device and vice versa is encrypted and routed through secure protocols to ensure that it does not leak out.
The extent of the safety of encryption and the protocol varies from one VPN service to another.
What this process of rerouting the internet traffic does is that it makes the VPN servers appear as the one generating the requests which were generated by you.
This prevents the ISPs, websites, government organizations, and cybercriminals from interpreting your online activities and the actual content of it. The VPN cover keeps you safe from all sorts of monitoring and surveillance.
VPN services, without a doubt, are one of the best ways to protect your privacy on the internet. In fact, it sounds like not only the Australians but people from all over the world need to subscribe to such services.
However, there is a bit more to the Australian case as compared to the rest of the world.
Metadata Retention Laws
Australia has mandatory metadata retention laws which make all the Internet Service Provider and the telecommunication services hold the information about the user’s activities for a period of 2 years.
The law was passed in 2015 after which the major telecom service providers in the country asked for 18 months to come up with a strategy to follow the new laws.
The law passed in 2015 is a low key version of another law proposed in the Australian Parliament in 2012. It required the telecommunication services to store a specific set of data for a period of 2 years.
The proposal faced resistances of various sorts and never became a law. However, the metadata retention law sited national security and prevention of terrorist activities as the primary reasons which necessitate the law.
Even though the intentions of the government may be right, the law is a direct attack on the privacy of the citizens of the country.
Metadata is not the actual content of your activities, but it contains information related to your online activities.
For example, it includes the websites you visited, email addresses in your communications, IP addresses in the communications, your locations, the timestamps, etc.
All this information can be used to deduce a lot about an individual, and since we are so heavily dependent on the internet in our daily lives, it is not an easy task to avoid the usual activities on the internet.
There is no independent body which is responsible for approving the requests by the government agencies to evaluate the metadata of an individual.
The law should have come along with strict guidelines which would describe what fair and necessary use of such data means. But the government bodies have been given way too much control when it comes to the authorization to look into the metadata of the citizens.
Even if we assume that the government agencies will act responsibly every time they need to access the private data of individuals, the fact that such data exists poses a lot of threats on the privacy of the individuals.
If the data got compromised in a cyber attack, the implications would affect the whole population of the country, and the lives of the citizens will become analogous to some open book which anyone can read.
The citizens need to take the matter in their own hands if they value privacy. VPN services seem like the best bet of the citizens at the moment.
The ideal VPN for Australia
Now that we have stated why VPNs are a necessity in Australia let us have a look at the ideal features for a VPN in Australia.
Any company or business needs to abide by the local rules and regulations and rules vary across the borders. So, what is unlawful in one country may be perfectly legal in another one.
The jurisdiction matters a lot in the case of VPN services as it plays a crucial role in deciding if the service provider can follow a no-logs policy or not.
It is also not a good idea for a VPN service to be based in a country where the government does not care much about the privacy of the citizens, and there are no strong laws to protect it.
It is a big no-no for any VPN service to be based in one of the 14-Eyes countries. 14-Eyes is a group of countries who take help of robust surveillance systems and intelligence report sharing among each other to keep an eye on the activity of the citizens.
Australia is one country among this group, so it is better that Australians go for some foreign VPN service. It should be based in a country which supports individual policy and does not mandate logging of the user’s data.
Servers in Australia
It is the servers what primarily constitute a VPN. An excellent server network lays the foundation for a superior VPN service.
The two characteristics that make a server network better than others are that is should be wide, and it should be dense.
An extensive server network means that the service should have server locations all across the globe. It makes the service easily accessible for all the users and also ensures that the user has the option to bypass a lot of the geo restrictions.
Most of the VPN services generally have a higher frequency of server locations in the European continent and the North American continent.
The apparent reason is the higher percentage of users in these regions. The top VPN services, however, have abundant server locations in all parts of the world.
Australia qualifies as a special case in this section because of its isolation from the rest of the world. It is not just isolated but also very far away from the neighboring countries.
The country itself is so big that if a VPN service does not has ample server locations in the country, then the user may not receive satisfactory services even after he/she is connected to a server located within the country.
A VPN service with server locations evenly spread throughout the country would be a wise choice.
The server density also has a role to play in providing satisfactory service to the users. Many servers in one location or high bandwidth capacity servers prevent the situation of internet traffic bottleneck on the servers.
So, in our opinion, it is necessary that the VPN service has a wide and dense server network not just within Australia but around the world to provide a better service to the Australians.
Fast and Secure
It would not make much sense to use a VPN service which does not serve its purpose. VPN services are supposed to mask your location as well as the activity on the internet.
Some VPN services do this job better than others. They employ all the tools possible to make sure that the user’s data and privacy don’t get compromised.
Some of these tools include strong encryption, safer protocols, additional security features such as kill-switch and DNS leak protection.
However, a VPN service cannot afford to sacrifice a lot of speed on the service while ensuring the network is safe enough. Some of the security measures such as encryption slow down the resultant speeds.
The service provider needs to hit the sweet spot of balance between the speed and security to deliver top-class service to its users.
Speed and security cannot be left out of the equation while choosing a VPN service irrespective of the fact that the user is from Australia or not.
The additional perks
Once the bare minimum necessities for a VPN in Australia have been established, the user can look for some additional features in the services which make them stand apart from the others.
P2P file sharing is one such feature. Torrenting has been experiencing resistance in many parts of the world lately. The primary reason for it is its use to share pirated content on the internet.
However, not all the P2P file shares are related to piracy, and a lot of legitimate content is shared using this service.
Many VPN services don’t allow P2P file share through their servers while there are a few services which provide dedicated servers for P2P file sharing.
Other additional features which make the service a lot more desirable to the users are broad platform support, excellent customer support services, Smart DNS services, etc.
A combination of all the features mentioned above will make for an excellent VPN service for use in Australia.
We just went through all the traits that a VPN service needs to possess in order to qualify as the appropriate VPN service for Australia.
However, we have also performed the tedious task of scanning all the VPN services for the features that we just discussed, and we filtered out some of the best VPNs for Australia.
Here are a few of them in no specific order.
ExpressVPN: This VPN service has one of the most impressive server networks with more than 147 server locations across the world. The service allows the user to bypass most of the geo-restrictions.
The availability of 256-bit encryption along with a bunch of protocols make the service very secure for the user, and he/she can worry a bit less about privacy while using the service.
NordVPN: This is again one of the services with a vast server network. NordVPN has servers in more than 62 countries. Beating this number is tough.
The service provider packs in plenty of additional features in the service such as double-VPN, Tor access, optimized P2P servers, etc.
Perfect Privacy: This VPN service has ample servers in Australia, but it is not the server network which makes Perfect Privacy stand out from the rest.
The security measures employed on the service are simply way too ahead of the others. The use of artificial intelligence and beefing up of even regular features such as the kill switch make the service one of our preferred choices.
CyberGhost: This VPN service has got it all when it comes to choosing the best VPN service for Australia. More extensive server network, impressive speeds, and robust security are some of the attributes of the service.
CyberGhost is also among the most functional services with additional features such as tracker blocking and protection from malicious websites.