The massive popularity of Netflix is not something any of us could have predicted. What started out as a service that mailed you DVDs to rent and return evolved into a powerhouse of entertainment. There would be no Stranger Things or The Irishman without Netflix.
If there is one single problem with the service, it’s that we don’t really know how we are tracked when we use it. Your ISP does know you are streaming movies and shows from the service because an open Internet connection with an IP address they can track tells them everything. You could define Netflix in a very technical way - yes, it’s a massive commercial site for mainstream entertainment, but to an ISP it is also just another web server among many.
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When you connect to Netflix using an app, in a browser, or on a smart television or game console, you create a secure tunnel between your device and the webserver. An ISP can still see your connection and your IP address, but they can’t see what you are watching. In fact, no one can -- not an advertiser, or a hacker, or an employer. You are safe and clear to watch whatever you want on Netflix without any overlord seeing your media preferences.
Fortunately, setting up ExpressVPN is remarkably easy even if you use a tablet or smartphone, connect on a laptop, or use a smart television or game console. We’ll start with the basics of how to sign-up for the app and start using a VPN, and then how to access Netflix.
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The basics of running a VPN
A VPN adds encryption and security to your Internet connection. It all happens in the background. For example, on a laptop that you normally use for watching Netflix movies, an installed ExpressVPN protects your internet feed for all activities. There’s a client that runs in the background that, once running, doesn’t require any other activation or monitoring. You don’t need to do anything to the VPN client before you start using Netflix.
To install ExpressVPN on a computer, the fastest method is to go to the ExpressVPN website and look for the Get Started link. We won’t walk through every step that’s involved here, but suffice it to say the process is extremely easy. Once you download the client, you mainly have to choose a country as the location for the webserver you want to use and click connect. As part of the process, ExpressVPN will give you a login and password.
After that, you can use Netflix normally. There are no other settings to configure. If you use the Netflix app for Windows or Mac, you can start the app, log in, and start watching. One important point to make here is that you should verify on occasion that the VPN client is installed and working.
In Windows, you can do that by checking the taskbar in the lower right corner and checking the pop-up called “show hidden icons” - verify there is a green check on the ExpressVPN icon.
It’s a similar step on a Mac - just verify the icon has a green check. It’s not like you need to monitor this checkmark every day, only if you want to verify it’s working. For the most part, ExpressVPN will continue to run every time you boot up your computer.
On a smartphone, the process is even easier. As long as you already have an account, you just need to download the ExpressVPN app for iOS or its Android VPN. Once you launch the app, log in and look for the same option to select the country you want to use for the connection.
On both an iPhone and Android devices, there is a way to enable and disable the VPN in settings. You can verify the VPN is working by checking the app or that the VPN setting is enabled.
Installing ExpressVPN on a Wi-Fi router requires some configuration for your router’s make and model, but once you do that, the VPN will protect your game consoles and smart television.
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Things to know about Netflix and a VPN
While all of this is straightforward and easy, there are a few important caveats to mention. One important thing to note is that a VPN protects and secures your connection, but it does add about 10-15% of extra usage to your internet connection.
If you are using a connection that limits bandwidth, your ISP will know you are consuming more data each month. The good news is that ExpressVPN prevents an ISP from throttling your speed due to this excess usage.
Another important note is that Netflix itself still knows what you are watching. This is because, even with a VPN, you still have to log in to your account, which reveals your identity and allows Netflix to track what you watch.
There’s no clear assurances about how Netflix uses this data, although we do know the company makes suggestions about what to watch based on your previous viewing history. If you are concerned about Netflix tracking what you watch.
A final word of caution. There is no clear indication about whether Netflix sells or abuses user data. For the most part, the service is supported by subscriptions and the company has stated they keep it safe (you can read more about that at their privacy page). However, the company has also stated they will work with authorities about users who commit fraud or conduct illegal activity. A VPN does not protect you from that.
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