Censorship in the Netherlands is practically non-existent and the country is considered as one of the freest environments in the world. There is a lax attitude towards online piracy and downloading copyright content for personal use is not illegal. That doesn’t mean that internet users in the Netherlands don’t need to use a VPN. The implementation of the EU Data Retention Directive, along with other concerns for privacy, including surveillance from government organizations, are enough reasons to look for better security and protection. Before listing the most convenient VPN solutions, it’s worth taking a look at the issues that affect internet users in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands is known for its liberal approach to issues that are forbidden in other countries. Downloading copyrighted material without commercial purposes is not considered illegal, but online piracy is still targeted and the country has previously gave in to pressure from copyright enforcement crusaders. In 2012, the anti-piracy organization BREIN managed to get The Pirate Bay blocked in the Netherlands.
The ban was lifted in 2014, after a Dutch court ruled that the action was disproportionate. However, the situation is ongoing as copyright enforcement has appealed the decision and the Dutch Supreme Court has asked the EU Court of Justice for further clarification on the issue. It is also worth considering that the entertainment industry is compensated for its supposed loses through a “piracy tax” applied to CDRs and DVDRs.
EU Data Retention Directive
Like other European Union members, the Netherlands passed the Data Retention Directive into national law. Under this regulation, all telecommunication providers (ISPs included) are required to keep logs of all users’ communications for at least 12 months. While the DRD is only intended for collecting metadata (not the content of the communications), human rights and online freedom campaigners opposed vehemently to the law. In 2015, the district court of The Hague, struck down the Telecommunications Data Retention Act, which had been implemented in the country in 2009.
Many countries considered that the Directive covered VPN providers but in the Netherlands (as well as in other nations like Sweden, Bulgaria, Romania and Switzerland), VPNs were not subject to logging. The fact that VPNs were not required to log customer’s data (not even while the Telecommunications Data Retention Act as in place), along with the country’s attitude towards copyright, turned the Netherlands into an ideal location for VPN servers. If a provider only supports P2P in certain servers, it is likely that the Netherlands is one of the locations where they allow it.
The NSA has managed to extend its surveillance domain to Europe, with the help from local organizations. There is legislation in place that allows US organizations to request access to information stored in cloud databases in the EU, if they are owned by US companies. Additionally, it is worth noting that the Patriot Act established that the US intelligence services can request any US company to hand over information on any of its servers, regardless on the location of that data. Many of the largest companies in the world are from the United States, which means that even if the information is located outside that country (which is often the case), the US authorities will be able to get access to it.
Best VPN Services for Netherlands
Formed in Rome by a group of online freedom activists and hacktivists, AirVPN has a strong commitment to protect privacy. They have implemented impressive security in their client, which features all the functions required to bypass censorship and keep your data secure. They don’t keep logs and support anonymous payment methods such as Bitcoin. Additional options like VPN over Tor and VPN through SSL and SSH tunnels, will provide even more protection and the website offers a transparent report of the status of their network.
ExpressVPN has consistently appeared on lists of the best providers for different purposes and this is due to the fact that they offer a complete, high quality solution. Although the company is originally from the US, they are now based in the British Virgin Islands, which is not subject to strict data retention laws and is less likely to be affected by NSA surveillance. ExpressVPN has servers in more than 87 countries and it supports remarkable speeds.
NordVPN is another fantastic option for users in the Netherlands, particularly for those who prioritize privacy. Based in Panama, this provider is focused on offering high security through features like Tor over VPN and double encryption. They also have a solid no logs policy and support payment options like Bitcoin. The high security can have an impact over the speed of the service, but overall, NordVPN is a great VPN solution.
Private Internet Access
PIA is one of the most recognized names in the VPN industry and this is not a surprise, given the effective combination of security, speed and affordability. They don’t keep logs of your online activity and accept Bitcoin as method of payment. Their encryption is strong and the client includes important features like IPv6 leak protection, kill switch and DNS leak protection. Although they are a US company, PIA is a great choice that is committed to privacy protection and that allows 5 simultaneous connections for a reasonable price.
Swedish provider Mullvad joins the list of the best VPN services for the Netherlands, thanks to its fantastic client and its no logs policy. They accept payments via Bitcoin, as well as cash sent by post, which is another convenient way to keep your identity protected. Mullvad offers affordable plans and convenient features such as DNS leak protection, kill switch and detailed server statistics.