ZenMate Integrates VPN Privacy into Your Browser, But Has Limitations

by Tracy Knauer •

Looking for a VPN service that integrates directly into your Web browser, rather than requiring a separate download?  ZenMate offers that solution. Read on for an overview of this online privacy platform, including its cost, pros and cons.

Named “startup of the year” in 2014, ZenMate is a VPN service run by a company based in Germany. It is priced at at $6.99/month for a yearly plan, or $9.99 if you pay per month. A free trial is available.

Here’s what makes ZenMate different from most other VPNs: rather than requiring users to download a VPN client that runs as a standalone application, ZenMate works primarily as a browser plug-in.  It currently supports Firefox, Chrome and Opera (along with browsers derived from them) on desktop and mobile platforms.

There are pros and cons to this approach. The main pro is that installation is extremely easy. Another is cross-platform compatibility.

Zenmate

On the other hand, the downside to running ZenMate as a browser extension is that it only secures traffic within your Web browser. Other apps, like chat services or torrents, aren’t encrypted by the ZenMate VPN.

For the same reason, apps running outside the browser will be subject to any censorship restrictions in a user’s location. ZenMate can only provide access to blocked websites, not to other types of apps.

ZenMate does offer a desktop client for Windows and Mac OS X, which provides more comprehensive security, privacy and anti-censorship features. But unlike the browser plug-in, the client only supports certain platforms.

ZenMate does have a strong privacy policy. The company promises not to “store or log your personal data which can be used to identify you or what you’re doing online,” and it in fact requires no personal information for users to sign up.

Overall, based on the privacy it delivers and the ease of installation, ZenMate is a good choice if you perform all of your Internet activity inside a browser, or if you use Windows or OS X and can install the standalone client.

For Linux and mobile-device users who run apps outside the browser, ZenMate appears less than ideal. It would be handy if the company offered compatibility with a generic OpenVPN client, which users could use to encrypt all of their network traffic through ZenMate on any operating system.

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