Ah, Germany! Its beautiful landscapes, bustling cities, unique cuisine, and rich culture make it one of the best places to live, work and visit.
And as a member of the EU, Germany is subject to the GDPR.
That means that German residents enjoy some of the world’s strongest online privacy protections. In Germany, companies don’t own your personal data — you do.
But that doesn’t mean that life is all sunshine and roses for German internet users.
National policies and attitudes reveal a government that’s more surveillance-happy than it lets on. And several disturbing incidents in recent years have privacy experts concerned for Germany’s future.
Ordinary folks can’t do much about the secretive behaviors of German authorities. But there is one thing anyone can do to protect their own online privacy: use a VPN.
A virtual private network is by far the easiest and most effective way to protect your privacy online. It encrypts your traffic, masks your IP address and prevents spying by governments, hackers and ISPs.
We’ve got the lowdown on the best VPNs for Germany — and why you need one. Get ready to say “Auf Wiedersehen” to online surveillance!
Why Do I Need a VPN in Germany?
At first glance, Germany seems like an ideal country for anyone interested in internet freedom.
After all, the GDPR affords Germans a bevy of powerful rights.
You can obtain your data from web companies and have it deleted at will. And companies must be transparent about what they do with your data, from internal use to third-party sales.
But over the past few years, we’ve started to see a darker side of Germany’s internet policies. Here are three of the most worrying incidents.
Fourteen Eyes and NSA Cooperation
The Five Eyes intelligence alliance may be the biggest threat to personal privacy today.
Its members — the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand — collaborate on intelligence gathering and sharing. Citizens and non-citizens alike are subject to its invasive monitoring tactics.
Web histories, emails, text messages, phone calls… no digital communications are off-limits for Five Eyes. Member countries freely share their intelligence databases with one another and cooperate on spying programs like PRISM and ECHELON.
But the alliance has other eyes working for it as well — and one of them is good old Deutschland.
Germany is a member of Fourteen Eyes, the expanded version of Five Eyes.
Its national intelligence agency, the BND, shares surveillance data with the NSA.
Such data is supposed to pertain only to suspected terrorists and other major threats. But the BND has been suspiciously secretive about its behaviors, refusing to discuss them with even the German Parliament.
And given that the NSA has spied on millions of innocent US citizens, there’s reason to believe that the BND has done the same in Germany.
A dispute between YouTube and GEMA, a German performance rights group, resulted in millions of YouTube videos being blocked in Germany.
GEMA demanded that YouTube pay 12 Eurocents per stream of many music videos. YouTube refused, claiming that the amount was prohibitively high.
So, beginning in 2009, Germany blocked an estimated 3% of all YouTube videos. This included around 10% of all videos with over a million views.
Trying to view a blocked video in Germany resulted in a “This video is not available in your country” error.
The dispute continued until 2016 when YouTube and GEMA reached a settlement. YouTube now pays an undisclosed amount to GEMA every time a GEMA-protected video is streamed.
But such agreements have expiration dates. When that date rolls around, GEMA and YouTube will need to renegotiate.
And if those negotiations go as poorly as they did in 2009, German YouTube users could find themselves blocked off yet again.
Data Retention Laws
A 2015 law introduced mandatory data retention to Germany. Companies would be required to store IP addresses, SMS and call data for ten weeks.
Ten weeks isn’t that long compared to other countries. The UK enforces a 12-month data retention period, and Australia’s is a whopping 24 months.
But when it comes to your browsing data, any amount of mandatory data retention is too long.
Thankfully, in 2017, the Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia suggested that the law may violate EU policy. The court declared that companies did not need to comply with the law until a final ruling was issued.
That ruling came in April 2018, when the Administrative Court of Cologne determined that the German law was not compliant with EU law.
But appeals could still be made that, if won, could bring the law back into effect. And if not, there’s nothing stopping Germany from introducing a similar data retention law in the future.
Facts About Germany
Germany is located in Central Europe and maintains a population of approximately 83 million people, all of whom live in a country that’s about the same size as the U.S. State, Montana.
Germany is famous for its beers and festivals, the most notable of them is Oktoberfest. Some of the best musical composers like Ludwig van Beethoven, George Friedrich Handel, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Johann Sebastian Bach all hailed from this country. And in terms of cuisine, Bratwurst is arguably its most famous delicacy.
In terms of Internet usage, 62.4 million people in Germany have access, which roughly translates to 89.8 percent of its total population. On average, Germans spend around two and a half hours each day surfing the web. Men use the Internet forty percent more than women, clocking in about 3 hours per day.
Internet speeds in Germany average (download stream) 21.3 MB/s, however, by 2020, Germany plans to roll out a network expansion program making 5G’s 2Gbit/s the standard.
The most widely used messaging app in Germany is WhatsApp. Forty million people rely on it to communicate with their friends, family, and colleagues. There are also around 21 million Germans on Facebook.
Germany’s tech industry is also thriving. The top IT company there is Google, with three of its branches located in Munich, Hamburg, and Berlin. Like in other countries, Google’s offices are a haven for employees, having benefits that are unmatched by other companies.
Other top IT companies in Germany include Rocket Internet, Amazon Web Services, Mckinsey, and Debut Infotech. Most of them are located in either Berlin or Munchen.
What Is the Best VPN for Germany?
As we’ve seen, Germans aren’t exempt from the need to reinforce their online privacy with a VPN.
But not all VPNs are created equal. That’s why it’s important to review your options carefully and pick the best VPN for your specific needs.
What to Look for When Picking a VPN for Germany
In Germany, you’ll want to pick a VPN with plentiful German server locations. Of course, you can use any server anywhere in the world, but a nearby server will give you the best speeds.
And with more server options, you won’t have to worry about high server load or the resulting performance losses.
It’s also important to find a VPN with top-grade encryption and zero logs.
Strong encryption means that if your traffic is intercepted by hackers or surveillance, it can’t be deciphered or read. And with zero logs, the government can’t forcibly obtain your activity from your VPN provider.
Finally, if you regularly stream and/or torrent, make sure to pick a provider with strong support for these applications. Some VPNs can’t access streaming sites, and others prohibit or limit torrenting.
The Three Best VPNs for Germany
Here are our top three VPNs for Germany. These VPNs meet all of the aforementioned criteria (and then some!) and provide an excellent bang for your Euro.
With over 650 servers in Germany (and thousands more around the world), CyberGhost is our top German VPN pick. The company was even based in Germany initially but has since moved to Romania.
Germany’s servers are nicely distributed across the country: Berlin, Dusseldorf, and Frankfurt. Nearby countries like Switzerland (Zurich and Huenenberg), Belgium (Brussels) and Austria (Vienna) are also available.
And if you need a dedicated IP for business or gaming, you can rent one on CyberGhost’s Frankfurt servers.
CyberGhost protects your traffic with AES-256 encryption — the best of the best. Zero logs mean that nobody will ever know anything about your CyberGhost usage or activity.
Plus, CyberGhost allows torrenting on most of its servers, including the ones in Germany. Best of all, it can unblock US, French and German Netflix!
A true powerhouse of the VPN world, ExpressVPN is ideal for users in Germany and beyond.
Servers in Frankfurt and Nuremberg deliver ultra-fast speeds around the country. Whichever you choose, you’ll be protected by AES-256 encryption.
ExpressVPN can unblock both US and German Netflix, among others. Torrenting is also fully supported.
And ExpressVPN’s private DNS combined with its lack of activity and IP logs makes it one of the most secure VPNs out there.
With over 200 servers in Berlin and Frankfurt, NordVPN is perfect for users throughout Germany. Dedicated German IPs are readily available, too.
Excellent speeds combined with the world’s strongest encryption make NordVPN perfect for power users. Zero logs ensure that you’re the only one who will ever know what you do online.
NordVPN’s German servers, along with thousands of others around the world, are optimized for P2P and streaming. German Netflix isn’t unblocked, but US, Canadian, Dutch, and Japanese Netflix are.
Germany may benefit from the GDPR, but its close NSA ties and data retention efforts are concerning. A VPN is the best way for German internet users to stay secure and private.