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Hotspot Shield VPN Review 2021 – It Has Some Serious Flaws

The Verdict

Hotspot Shield VPN is fast. There is no doubt about it. It comes with the industry-standard AES encryption with a choice between 128-bit and 256-bit encryption.

Despite its immense popularity, Hotspot Shield VPN succumbs to privacy and DNS leak tests, which I never approve of. If you want a VPN service to prevent rogue hackers, Hotspot Shield can be a good choice. However, if you are concerned about your privacy, I will advise that you steer clear of this VPN provider.

Why am I saying so? Keep reading to find out more.

My Ratings for Hotspot Shield VPN | Overall:

Staying true to the methodology that I always use for any VPN review, I will break down this VPN review in 8 segments with individual ratings. The overall rating is finally calculated as an average of each individual parameter. Sounds good? So, here is a table with an individual rating for each segment:

Parameter for RatingMy Rating
Security5
Speed9
Streaming8
Features8
UI and User Experience8
Gaming8
Customer Service8
Pricing6
Overall Rating7.5

The Pros and Cons of Hotspot Shield VPN

Before I walk you through the detailed review of Hotspot Shield VPN, here is a quick list of the pros and cons of this popular VPN:

The Advantages of Hotspot Shield VPN

  • The VPN provider has a vast network of servers spread across the world.
  • It provides AES encryption technology for securing your data.
  • It has one of the most beautifully designed interfaces.
  • It delivers fast speed with its proprietary VPN protocol.
  • It allows torrenting.
  • It successfully unblocks Netflix.
  • It offers a free VPN service.
  • It has a general 45-day money-back guarantee.
  • It allows 5 simultaneous connections against a single license.

The Disadvantages of Hotspot Shield VPN

  • It uses a proprietary Catapult Hydra Protocol, and there is a lack of transparency with that.
  • It does work with the Great Firewall of China, but it is highly unreliable.
  • It doesn’t maintain a strict no-logs policy.
  • It is located in the United States of America, a member of 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes alliances.
  • The free app is ad-supported.
  • The browser extensions have DNS leaks.
  • Kill switch is available only for Windows users.
  • High price for a VPN company with not so rosy past.

Hotspot Shield VPN at a Glance

In case you are wondering about when the VPN services started operations, the number of servers it offers, and more, the table below is going to answer some of your questions.

Location of Hotspot Shield VPNSilicon Valley, USA
Year of the initial release2008
Storage typeHard Drive Storage
Logging PolicyNo-logs policy (in theory)
5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, 14 EyesLocated in the United States of America, which is a member of 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes alliances.
Number of simultaneous connections allowedFive connections against one license
Platforms supportedWindows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Routers, Smart TV, etc.
Refund Policy45-day refund policy.

So, now that you have a fair idea about Hotspot Shield VPN, it is time that I walk you through the full review. However, one last thing before I start, here is a quick comparison of the free version of the VPN and its premium version:

Hotspot Shield VPN – Free vs. Premium

Hotspot offers its VPN in two flavors – free and premium. As expected, the free VPN is good for nothing. 500 MB of data allowance is a joke. It would have been better if they didn’t offer anything for free.

What more? The free version is supported by ads. It means that when you are going to install the client on your computer, Hotspot Shield will show you ads. That’s a blatant violation of a user’s privacy.

The free version made a mockery of privacy. I will not be surprised if Hotspot sells private information the free users. They actually came under heat for this. I will be talking about this later.

Anyway, I will talk less. Just look at the comparative table, and I am sure you will start hating the free version!

Free Version FeaturesPremium Version Features
It can be used on only one device.It can be used on 5 devices at once against a single license.
AES encryption is available.AES encryption is available.
Streaming access is very limited.Optimized for Disney+, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, etc.
500 MB of data allowance every day.No limitation on data.
Only one location is available.115 locations are available that are spread over 80+ countries and 35+ cities.
It allows only Catapult Hydra VPN protocol.It allows only Catapult Hydra VPN protocol.
Speed is limited to 2 Mbps.Up to 1 Gbps of speed available.
Smart VPN or split tunneling is not available.Smart VPN or split tunneling is available.
No protection is available against phishing and malware.Protection is available against phishing and malware.
It is an ad-supported platform that will show you ads, defeating the very purpose of a VPN.There are no ads on this platform.
It is not available on SmartTVs, Linux, or routers.It is available on SmartTVs, Linux, and routers. I don’t see how Linux is a premium device (as they prefer to call it).
Support is available only in the form of online resources.Customers can get 24×7 live chat support.
The torrenting feature is not available. Even if it was available, the daily quota of 500 MB is just not sufficient.Torrenting is available with no restrictions on data usage.
It cannot work in China. Stop dreaming.It works in China, but it is not very reliable. It, however, works in other countries with Internet censorship.

I understand that creating a VPN and maintaining it is costly. So, it is better not to provide any free version in the first place! Why play around with people’s privacy?

Hotspot Shield VPN Security | There Are Issues | My Rating: 5/10

Just like every other VPN out there in the market, Hotspot Shield VPN comes with the basic industry-standard features. Let me walk you through them, and in the process, I will let you know the issues as well.

AES Encryption

AES encryption is the industry-standard encryption that all VPN providers use. I have explained it many times before, so I will not repeat it again. They have both 128-bit. That’s great from the security aspect because even a supercomputer will fail to decrypt your data in a million years without the encryption key.

However, I would prefer to see 256-bit AES encryption. The reason they use 128-bit is that proprietary VPN protocol is dependent on 128-bit.

VPN Protocol

Hotspot Shield VPN has stopped supporting other VPN protocols like OpenVPN, IEKv2, L2TP, etc. They use the proprietary protocol that they have named as Catapult Hydra. According to Hotspot Shield, Catapult Hydra uses the same OpenSSL library that OpenVPN uses.

The company says that Catapult Hydra is an enhancement over the TCP protocol. It fixes latency issues that plague the IPSec and OpenVPN protocols.

Despite the latency that makes OpenVPN slightly slower, I will always recommend OpenVPN at any given point in time over a proprietary option like Catapult Hydra, a closed-source protocol. You can always inspect an open-source protocol like OpenVPN. In the case of Catapult Hydra, you just cannot know what is going on behind the scenes.

However, Hotspot Shield claims that experts from McAfee and BitDefender have evaluated their protocol, and they use the Hotspot Shield’s SDK to offer VPN services within their apps. If that is true, Catapult Hydra is something you can trust. However, even McAfee and BitDefender are all closed-source, and there is no way you can know what’s going on behind the scenes.

So, I will settle for OpenVPN! What you want to settle for is something you need to decide. I can only tell you the truth.

DNS/IPv6 Leaks

While choosing a VPN, you must test for DNS, IP, and WebRTC leaks. If any of these tests reveal your real IP, the VPN is not worth using at all.

So, staying true to the commitment, I decided to put both the free and the premium version of Hotspot Shield VPN to test. I tested both the desktop and mobile apps. It did not leak any information on DNS and WebRTC. In fact, it showed my location to Germany, which was not at all true.

Unfortunately, Hotspot Shield doesn’t support IPv6 traffic. So, if you have IPv6 supplied by your Internet Service Provider, Hotspot Shield will leak information.

The real problem came with the browser extensions. Both the Chrome extension and the Firefox extensions are poorly designed and coded, and both of them leaked information. The Chrome extension leaked DNS requests while the Firefox add-on leaked WebRTC requests.

This is what the Chrome extension did:

This is what the Firefox extension did:

If you are using the browser extensions, your ISP can see which websites you are visiting using the Google Chrome browser extension. If you are using the Firefox browser extension, your ISP can see your real location and IP address.

I will like to point out that if you want to get around the WebRTC leak issue with Firefox, you can completely disable WebRTC at the browser level. To do so, follow the steps below:

  • In the address bar, type about:config and hit the enter button.
  • Click on the option which reads, ‘I accept the risk!).
  • After that, in the search bar, type media.peerconnection.enabled and hit the enter button. Right-click on the option and select ‘false.’ Don’t use the toggle switch.

These steps will completely disable WebRTC at the browser level.

However, I will strongly recommend that you do not use the browser extensions of Hotspot Shield at all!

No-Logs Policy

If you are looking for a high level of anonymity when you are going online, I will never recommend Hotspot Shield. Instead, go for an option like ExpressVPN.

Though the company states that it has a strict no-logs policy, the company is not completely transparent. It fact, it does log a lot of information even if you are a premium member. For free users, things are worse.

Hotspot Shield will log the following information:

  • Your IP address (encrypted) for the total duration of usage in a single session.
  • Your geographical location! Yes, the company will log your approximate geographical location when you use the VPN. The reason for this is to connect you to the nearest server.
  • It also logs connection timestamps for monitoring, supporting, and optimizing VPN services. The problem is that the information is stored for 3 years!
  • It will also log device-specific information like information on wireless and other networks, browser type, device identifiers, operating system and its version, the type of device you are using, and the setting that you have applied on that device.
  • It will also log the amount of bandwidth that you are using per session so that the company can monitor, support, and provide VPN services that are optimized. Again, the information stays with the company for 3 years.
  • It will also store the domain names of the websites you are visiting (URL specific logs are not stored) using the servers of Hotspot Shield.

In case you are using the free version of the VPN, you have to give away a lot more information, which includes:

  • Your city-level geographic location.
  • Your mobile’s IMEI Number (unique identifier number of your mobile).
  • Unique advertisement ID.
  • MAC address of your computer if you are using the free app on your desktop or your laptop.

What more? Hotspot VPN shares all this information (collected from the free VPN app) with third-party advertisers to serve ads! Remember, the free version is ad-supported.

In case you are not aware, connection timestamps, along with other data, can be used for proving that you have visited a certain website. Your IP address and the websites you visit are all monitored by Hotspot Shield, even if it is doing so in aggregate form. That’s not desirable if you are looking for high levels of anonymity when you are moving out of your place.

If basic browsing, streaming, etc. are what you want, this VPN will work fine. If a high level of anonymity is what you want, Hotspot Shield is a strict no!

Jurisdiction

By now, you should be aware of 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes intelligence-sharing alliances, don’t you? The United States of America is a member of all three. The country has implemented something called the Patriot Act. Under this act, the government can force the countries to retain user data and share the same with the authorities.

How on Earth can you trust this country? The problem is that Hotspot Shield VPN is located in Silicon Valley, California, USA! Do I need to say anything more?

Any VPN located in any member country of 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes alliances is a strict no for me. I am very concerned about my privacy, and I don’t like government authorities poking their noses in my business.

What’s your stand is up to you!

Hotspot Shield VPN Speed | My Rating: 9/10

Hotspot Shield says it is the fastest in the world, and they blatantly give all the credit to their proprietary VPN protocol that they call Catapult Hydra.

The truth is, they aren’t the fastest! They still need to do a great deal of job in beating NordVPN. Yes, it is fast, and it is great for streaming, torrenting, and gaming on some servers, but saying that it is the fastest is not something honest.

I did put Hotspot Shield to test with my standard equipment and setup, which if you don’t remember, include the following:

  • Desktop running Windows 10 64-bit.
  • Core i5 Processor clocked at 3.00 GHz.
  • 16 GB RAM.
  • Fiber broadband connection with a base speed of 85 Mbps.
  • Internet cable connected directly to the RJ45 port (no router)
  • Speed test time – between 11 AM and 12 Noon

There is no reason why select that time! I just do that.

Anyway, here is what I found during my speed test:

Server LocationDownload SpeedUpload SpeedPing Time
Washington68.80 Mbps5.46 Mbps16 ms
UK62.60 Mbps3.48 Mbps91 ms
Germany54.26 Mbps2.84 Mbps108 ms
Australia44.59 Mbps2.12 Mbps235 ms
Hong Kong48.28 Mbps4.58 Mbps212 ms
Pakistan30.98 Mbps1.87 Mbps303 ms

I will say that Hotspot Shield VPN is quite fast, even in far off locations. However, because the ping time increases significantly, it is not worth playing games of the VPN by using servers on a different continent.

But when it comes to streaming or torrenting, Hotspot Shield VPN can be a trusted partner, because even if it is not as fast as NordVPN, the speeds are quite high and consistent. NordVPN and even ExpressVPN can comfortably beat Hotspot Shield VPN anytime.

So, no! Hotspot Shield VPN is not the fastest VPN in the world, and its touted Catapult Hydra VPN protocol isn’t really as fast as it is portrayed to be.

Streaming with Hotspot Shield VPN | My Rating: 8/10

Though Hotspot Shield VPN claims that all its US servers can connect to Netflix US, that’s a blatant lie. Not all of them can bypass the geo-restriction put forward by Hotspot Shield VPN.

There are 21 servers in the US. You need to keep trying. If you are lucky, you will connect in the very first attempt. However, in my case, it was more like a hit or miss trial. I could connect using various servers, but some didn’t work.

I also managed to unlock the Netflix libraries of Japan, Canada, Australia, and Brazil. However, if you try to unblock Netflix or any other premium service using Hotspot Shield VPN, you will encounter a paywall that will ask you to get the premium subscription.

Anyway, even if the free version did allow you to unblock Netflix, the 500 MB data allowance isn’t enough to stream even a single episode of any TV show.

Hotspot Shield did work great with Hulu and particularly Disney+. Previously, the VPN couldn’t beat the geo-blocks of BBC iPlayer, but after months’ long battle, Hotspot Shield now manages to break through the geo-block.

As far as streaming is concerned, once I connected and started streaming, I was pleasantly surprised to notice no hiccups. I could stream HD video without any buffering. That was possible because of the speed that Hotspot Shield offers.

Usually, you can stream HD content with about 30 Mbps, but my tests did reveal that Hotspot Shield consistently offers a speed of 60+ Mbps in the US. There is a slight dip in speed in the European nations, and the maximum drop was when I tried connecting to Asian countries.

Hotspot Shield VPN Features | My Rating: 8/10

I need to accept that the Hotspot Shield VPN does have some neat features. However, that doesn’t mean I am giving my approval to this VPN provider. There are many drawbacks that I will tell. Keep reading.

Torrenting

Yes, you can enjoy downloading files from torrenting websites via Hotspot Shield VPN. The provider allows unmetered bandwidth when it comes to torrenting. There are no specialized torrenting or P2P servers, as in the case of NordVPN.

Hotspot Shield will mask your IP address and allow you to carry on torrenting activities completely anonymous. However, you need to know that your activities are not hidden from the mother company that is, AnchorFree (now Pango). Your activities are safe only if Hotspot Shield upholds its no-logging policy.

Because it is based in the United States of America, which has something called the Patriot Act, I cannot fully trust Hotspot Shield. Remember that torrenting is illegal. Downloading copyrighted material can get you into trouble because of the Berne Convention, irrespective of where you are located in the world.

You should use Hotspot Shield’s torrenting feature with caution. It is okay to download copyleft material. I will never suggest venturing out into the world of the copyrighted material. You can invite trouble.

Obfuscation and The Great Firewall of China

It reportedly worked in Hong Kong during the infamous 2014 Hong Kong protests. So, it can work with the Great Firewall of China. Honestly, I never tried it out. Some of my friends who did try it out in recent years have reported that China has upped the ante when it comes to detecting VPNs.

Hotspot Shield has now become a hit or a miss. Sometimes, the VPN simply fails to bypass the Great Firewall of China, and sometimes it does! This makes it not so reliable when it comes to bypassing the firewall that China has put up.

Kill Switch

I cannot stress more on this. A VPN should have a kill switch. The feature should be available for every platform like Windows, macOS, iOS, Linux, and Android.

Unfortunately, the kill switch is available only on Windows. This means that if you are using any other platform, your activities will become visible to everyone, the very moment your connection to the VPN server fails.

Perfect Forward Secrecy

For your every VPN session, the Hotspot Shield VPN will change the key required for encryption and decryption of your data or traffic. In case someone gets access to your private key for one session, it will not be working for the next session.

Linux Support

Hotspot Shield VPN also takes care of the Linux users. However, to use the Linux version, you need to use any of the following distributions:

  • Fedora Core
  • Ubuntu
  • Debian
  • CentOS

If you are using some other Linux distro like OpenSuse, Elementary, etc. you are out of luck!

Multiple Connections

Against one license, Hotspot Shield will allow you to connect up to 5 devices. However, if you are using Hotspot Shield on a router, you can extend its reach to as many devices as possible. However, you will need a VPN compatible router, which will invite extra investment.

Split Tunneling

Split tunneling is always a desirable feature. This is a feature that will allow you to selectively protect traffic from specific applications using a VPN, while the traffic from other applications will remain unprotected.

This is particularly helpful in the case of online banking or if you want to stream local content. Banks will always flag your account based on suspicious activities if you continue to connect to your online banking account from different VPN servers across the world. Similarly, you don’t really need a VPN service if you want to connect to local streaming services.

Hotspot Shield offers split tunneling under the name Smart VPN.

Other Features

Hotspot Shield offers various other features which include:

  • Protection from phishing and malware.
  • Protection from identity theft using the Identity Guard.
  • It also provides a password management tool known as 1Password. It will allow you to create secure passwords and send you alerts when a password is breached.
  • It comes with a feature called Robo Shield that will block spam calls.

User Interface and User Experience | My Rating: 8/10

Hotspot Shield VPN has one of the most beautifully designed interfaces I have seen among VPNs. It has a very techy look – something akin to those hacker movies. The overall design interface is modern and incredibly simple to use.

The overall app is lightweight and takes about 2 minutes to install and use. In the desktop client, you will find the countries (server locations) arranged alphabetically. If a country has more than one server location, you will get the option of choosing a city.

Unfortunately, you will not get the option of adding a server to a favorite list, but there is a quick access list that will show you all the recent servers you selected.

The main interface on the Windows app is clean, and once you connect using the large central connect button, you will see the server load percentage, new IP address, etc.

Hotspot Shield VPN Review

Using the settings segment (that you can find by clicking on the cog icon on the left, you can customize a few things like enabling kill switch, Smart VPN (split tunneling), automatically launching the app during Windows startup, automatically connecting to the last server you connected, auto protection over Wi-Fi and more.

The problem comes when you install it on macOS. There is a clear lack of advanced features for finetuning except for enabling automatic connection and turning on push notifications. The macOS app doesn’t have the kill switch either, which is extremely disappointing.

The mobile apps of Hotspot Shield VPN follow the same design philosophy. The apps are clean and boast a simple interface. They have the same big connect button once you start the apps. Clicking on the connect button will connect you to a virtual location.

The settings menu for the Android app is quite similar to what you find on Windows, but with limited features. You will not get the kill switch in either iOS or Android versions.

While it is normal to see iOS apps of VPNs are quite simple with fewer options than their Android counterparts, the Hotspot Shield VPN is too bare!

Of course, the lack of advanced features is what I didn’t like and hence, low rating.

Gaming Experience with Hotspot Shield VPN | My rating: 8/10

Should you attempt to play online games using Hotspot Shield VPN? I will give my stamp of approval to Hotspot Shield in this segment. Yes, you can go ahead and use it for the purpose.

During my speed tests, I was quite pleasantly surprised by the speed. So, it just makes sense that I will take it for a ride. As always, I played Valorant – a very high-octane game in which a split-second decision can be the difference between a win or a loss.

My experience was great only when I connected to a server that was close to my location. I did notice significant lags when I connected to Valorant servers in Europe and Asia. The lag resulted from the high ping.

I have explained it earlier many times in my other VPN reviews. So, I will keep it short. If you want to play online games, you will need a low ping (less than 55 milliseconds). In case of high pings (anything more than 55 milliseconds is high ping), you are bound to experience lag.

One thing that I did notice was that there was no packet loss, and neither was there any jitter. This happened for servers in the US. However, when I switched to Hotspot Shield servers in Europe, there were some packet losses, but not so significant as to directly impact the gameplay.

There was no jitter even when I connected to far off places. That was quite commendable.

What I understood over years of dealing with VPNs is that when you are using one for playing an online game, don’t switch continents to find a server. That’s going to impact your gameplay.

Customer Service of Hotspot Shield VPN | My Rating: 8/10

The customer service segment is always one of the most important aspects of every business. Hotspot Shield needs to improve here. Yes, they have a live chat option available that operates 24×7. They also have knowledgebase and email support.

Where they fall short is that you need to buy Hotspot Shield before you can ask any question via the live chat, which is available only and only to the premium customers. That sucks! You cannot contact them through live chat, even if you have some pre-sales queries.

If you have any sales-related questions, you will have to go forward and use their online resources, or you can shoot an email to them. But again, the email support is also too limited if you are a free-tier customer.

Luckily, however, the live chat is very responsive to premium customers, and they respond promptly. They seem to be quite knowledgeable too. In case you don’t get a satisfactory answer from the live chat, you can always shoot them an email or look for help in the knowledgebase segment.

In general, my experience with VPNs tells me that you will not really need to access customer support. The premium VPN apps are often too easy to use.

The VPN app integrates the support options for premium customers. You can connect to their live chat directly from within the app interface. Clicking on the contact option will take you to the chat support page for personalized support.

You will also get access to the knowledge base articles directly from within the VPN client app. Overall, the support was quite satisfactory, but I will love to see live chat available for pre-sales queries.

Pricing Structure of Hotspot Shield VPN | My Rating: 6/10

Same old, same old! You have to opt for a long term plan to get the greatest rebate! There are only three options available for you to select from. You can go for the free plan, or you can choose a premium plan in either monthly mode or yearly mode.

The free version is awful, but you can try it out. If you go for the premium plan, this is what you will get:

Monthly Pricing: $12.99 each month that includes all premium benefits.

Yearly Pricing: $7.99 per month billed yearly (you need to pay 95.88 USD at once), and it includes all the premium features and benefits.

There is no doubt that Hotspot Shield is the most expensive VPN out there. I didn’t like that, especially for a VPN located in America with a very tainted past and questionable logging policy.

They do have a 45-day money-back guarantee, but that doesn’t really make up for the company’s past shady history, does it?

Things I Didn’t Like About Hotspot Shield VPN

Honestly, despite Hotspot Shield offering many features and a clean and user-friendly interface, it is plagued with many problems that don’t really make it a great VPN for privacy warriors. What are those things that prevent the Hotspot shield from becoming one of my favorite VPNs? Here is a complete list:

Jurisdiction: I stay away from VPNs that fall under the jurisdiction of a member country of 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes alliances. They simply cannot be trusted.

Browser Extensions: They will give up either your IP address or your location, or tell people about the websites you are visiting. Why did they even try to make one when they couldn’t bother any less to fix the issue?

No RAM Storage: They have what is called the “hard disk” storage facility. You should settle for a VPN that offers RAM storage. This is especially true if you are concerned about your privacy. RAM storage is temporary storage that is removed as soon as a server reboots. In the case of the hard disk storage facility, anything stored on the storage units are to be deleted manually.

Kill Switch: It is available only and only for Windows users! That sucks! Who does that? A kill switch is an integral part of any VPN. It keeps your traffic protected from prying eyes. Not offering the kill switch on macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS is just not acceptable.

Too Pricey: Come on! There are way cheaper and better options available in the market. For instance, you can get Surfshark for as little as $1.94 a month for a three-year plan.

VPN Protocol: Forcing people to use Catapult Hydra protocol is not a wise thing. There should be more options, especially IKEv2 and OpenVPN. Catapult Hydra is a closed-source software that cannot be trusted completely.

Free Version Is a Joke: 500 MB a day? Were the folks at Hotspot Shield VPN on Meth or something when coming up with data allowance? On top of that, it is ad-supported. Seriously? They made a mockery out of people’s privacy. I strongly believe that they should shut down the free version.

No-Logs Policy: Zero Logs? Are they serious? They collect a lot of data. On top of that, they don’t have options for paying with Bitcoin or cash. You can pay only using your credit card or debit card or your PayPal account! So much for no-logs policy.

The Shady Past You Should Know About

This is the final part before I conclude my Hotspot Shield review. I believe you have the right to know all about the shady past of Hotspot Shield VPN and a few more issues that Hotspot Shield will never tell you.

So, let’s begin…

Did you know that Hotspot Shield was previously owned by Pango? Pango was previously known by the name AnchorFree.

In July 2020, Aura acquired Hotspot Shield VPN. You should know something about Aura. It is a security company that owns several other brands that include names like Identity Guard, Intrusta, PrivacyMate, and FigLeaf.

Aura is located in the US, which is a member of the 5 Eyes alliance. The country is known for its very intrusive privacy laws, and it is involved in the collection, sharing, and analysis of mass surveillance data.

US laws can compel any company focused on privacy to retain customer data and share the same with the US authorities. Under the Patriot Act, Aura will be forced to do exactly that, if needed.

This is a RED FLAG! You should be wary of this.

Hotspot Shield VPN did release its annual transparency report in 2019, which summed up all the requests that AnchorFree received from authorities across the world to hand over user data since 2016. There were a total of 227 requests.

Of course, they did not hand over any data. However, no other transparency report has been released after that. So, no one has any idea of whether the company ended up handing over user data to third parties or not.

In 2016, a CSIRO report revealed that the Android app of Hotspot Shield VPN deliberately injected JavaScript codes for the purposes of tracking and advertisement. What Hotspot Shield was doing was that it was collecting user information using tracking codes for selling the data to third-party advertisers!

What more? Pango (the mother company that owned Hotspot Shield VPN back then) was exposed to redirecting user traffic through different affiliate networks so that it could profit from purchases that people made while using Hotspot Shield VPN!

What more? An in-depth analysis of the source code of Hotspot Shield VPN revealed that it includes and actively uses 5+ different third-party tracking libraries!

In 2017, CDT or the Center for Democracy and Technology made severe accusations against Hotspot Shield VPN. CDT accused Hotspot Shield of “unfair and deceptive trade practices.”

The Federal Trade Commission was requested by CDT to investigate what they called “undisclosed and unclear data sharing and traffic redirection.”

The whole investigation circled around one thing – the contradiction between Hotspot Shield’s privacy policy and the privacy and security of the VPN service.

Hotspot considered that logging of users’ IP addresses was not the collection of users’ personal information. This was completely untrue. Interestingly CDT targeted the free version of the app, which was ad-supported. Nonetheless, logging the IP addresses of users was a severe breach of people’s trust.

The issue forced Hotspot Shield to revamp its privacy policy, which now clearly states what data it collects and what it doesn’t collect. It also says how it uses advertising and the free version together. Also, the ownership of the company changed. But that barely makes any difference. It still collects a lot of information that can be traced back to you.

Conclusion: Do I recommend It?

Yes, I recommend it only if you want to break geo-blocks of streaming services and keep yourself protected from hackers. If privacy is your major concern, I am sorry to say that I don’t vouch for this VPN at all! In fact, I don’t vouch for any VPN service that:

  • Falls in the jurisdiction of any of the member countries of 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, or 14 Eyes alliance.
  • Has a shady past.
  • Doesn’t strictly follow the no-logs policy.
  • Provides an ad-infested free version, which breaks the privacy promise the VPN makes in the first place.

In short, I will not recommend Hotspot Shield VPN for privacy-concerned people. For others, it is just fine, but unnecessarily expensive.