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I have a VPN that uses a service based in a country with no-log and no-track laws that are specifically antithetical to surveillance-heavy state policies like those in the USA, GB, and Germany. The service is a premium one that has a plethora of features, but limits to 5 devices total per account before you have to set up a new one.

So far, I have used it on one device, and intend to use a second on a virtual machine with a spoofed MAC that is designed for Tor browsing. I'm aware that each device which uses the account is inextricably linked at the VPN service, although this isn't really a problem because they don't log activity. I'm also aware that the moment you log into a personal account, like using an OpenID or Facebook account, you've completely thrown all reason to have a VPN out the window.

My question is, can one safely use a VPN for anonymity via a cellular phone, ever? By its nature, it hemorrhages personal data on a regular basis, and requires a sign-in to a Google or Apple account just to function. It also communicates location data, even if that feature is disabled, because it's required just for a cell tower to pick you up.

If you CAN use a VPN with a mobile phone to browse and download anonymously, how do you shield yourself from it breaking your anonymity during browsing or downloads? If you can't, I just won't waste one of my device registers...

  • It all depends on your threat model. VPNs aren't intended for anonymity. The classic purpose is to create an encrypted pipe so that entities between you and the endpoint can't see what sites you visit (think: open Wi-Fi access point, or a snoopy ISP). You have to shift your trust to the VPN provider since they see all exit traffic. – pseudon Apr 4 '18 at 14:06
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My question is, can one safely use a VPN for anonymity via a cellular phone, ever?

Your cellular provider is aware you are connected to the VPN, but the only traffic they could track is the encrypted traffic between you and the VPN. The only way around this would be a man in the middle attack on that connection which is easily identified.

By its nature, it hemorrhages personal data on a regular basis and requires a sign-in to a Google or Apple account just to function.

Microsoft, Apple, nor Google require you provide real information when you create an account. Of course, if you don't provide real information to recover your account you will be unable to recover your account.

It also communicates location data, even if that feature is disabled, because it's required just for a cell tower to pick you up.

This is not entirely true. You can disable cellular data, and only use wireless access points, of course, your location can still be identified by triangulating the location of the access points. You can disable that feature on most mobile operating systems.

If you CAN use a VPN with a mobile phone to browse and download anonymously, how do you shield yourself from it breaking your anonymity during browsing or downloads?

You would have to use an account registered to a fictional person. There are other benefits to using a VPN other than privacy reasons. You can bypass regional restrictions on content for instance. Of course the minute you access this fictional account, while you are NOT connected to TOR and the VPN, it would be easier to identify you.

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