Can police track VPN users and activities?

Anton P. | November 11, 2022

Can police track VPN users’ activities despite VPN promises to keep them private? Not exactly, but insights police can obtain depend on data retention, registered address, and data-sharing policies. 

VPN providers registered in Europe must store electronic data for at least six months. Similarly, providers must follow data retention laws applicable in their regions. 

However, even if VPN providers receive a court order to hand in information, their pockets might be relatively empty. Reliable VPNs try to have as little information as possible. So, most of them won’t have extensive users’ activity logs. 

What information about users can VPNs have? 

Can police track VPN users is a genuine concern. After all, as soon as you connect to a VPN server, all online activities go through that company’s servers. 

In theory, Virtual Private Networks can see and collect everything. However, most products use deliberate means to prevent the logging of unnecessary information. 

So, VPNs can restrict the collected amount of data and limit their reach. In general, there are three ways VPNs deal with data: 

  • VPN tools monitor usage information, consisting of clients’ activities like visited websites.
  • VPNs can collect aggregated connection logs. Such data consists of times of connection and its termination, real IP addresses, and a list of connected servers.
  • To reassure transparency, VPN providers follow a strict no-logs policy. This concept means that tools collect only essential information, usually for billing or troubleshooting. Atlas VPN also takes this approach of collecting only the data essential to providing services. Additionally, we do not log data about your online activities.

How can police track VPN services? 

The ‘can VPN be tracked by police’ question usually means whether law agencies can get usage logs on particular people. The truth is that a VPN will likely have some data collected about its clients.

However, it should not go as far as keeping usage or connection logs. Besides police tracking, such databases could pose significant data breach risks. 

  • Thus, even if court orders instruct a VPN to submit data, the provider is unlikely to have anything meaningful. 
  • So, many VPNs indicate they will not reveal anything as they actually have nothing. 
  • Nevertheless, no VPN user should trust a service provider without getting familiar with its official documents. These include terms of use and privacy policies.

Read VPN privacy policies 

Privacy policies are must-read pieces. They will likely go into great detail about the data collected and security measures meant to safeguard users’ activities. 

For instance, we carefully explain the privacy conditions of Atlas VPN. Here are some of the most important details: 

  • Atlas VPN does not log browsing activities and histories, connected VPN servers, original IP addresses, or other accessed data. 
  • Atlas VPN only collects the information necessary to provide our services, like email addresses for account creation. 
  • Premium users will also need to share their payment information. However, you can also pay using cryptocurrencies for more anonymity. 

For more details, read our full privacy policy.

We will not be able to submit any data outside our collection scope even if someone demands it. 

Guide on how can police track you if you use VPN 

Police will need to jump through multiple loops until they can receive any information from VPN providers. Their efforts can follow these steps: 

  • Police discover the suspected IP address through forensic investigation. 
  • After further analysis, police will likely associate the IP address with a VPN service. 
  • Police will contact the VPN provider to get more information about the IP address in question and its users. 
  • VPNs might abide by court orders and provide the information they have. However, their supplied data might have little to no value, depending on the data they log. 

Some countries allow police to track VPN users 

In 2022, Atlas VPN and many other VPN products decided to leave the Indian market. The reason behind such a decision was the Indian government’s conditions for VPN providers. 

Under the new national directive, VPN providers would need to reshape their logging practices to retain large amounts of personal data. Therefore, valuing our customers’ privacy and trust in our services, we removed our India-based servers. 

This situation illustrates that some countries wish to exercise control over VPN services and their users. China has showcased similar treatment, like convicting a man for distributing VPNs to bypass the Great Firewall. Thus, China only allows VPNs that they approve as legal.

Thus, certain countries can monitor VPN services much more carefully. 

Should you worry about police tracking your VPN usage? 

Users should rest assured that their activities while connected to VPN servers are secure. Encrypted VPN traffic protects their habits from various attempts of unauthorized access. 

Furthermore, Atlas VPN does not log your real IP address and VPN usage logs. Therefore, even if an entity issues a warrant, we won’t be able to supply such information. 

We feel pleased to provide users with more opportunities, access options, and overall safer browsing. However, we do not condone any attempts to exploit our services for mischievous affairs. 

Furthermore, a VPN halts IP-based tracking, which means that other techniques can still apply to you. Hence, cyber criminals should not rely on VPNs to conceal their criminal activities.

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Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.

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