Project Fi may still be something of a niche carrier, but Google is still taking it very seriously — especially when it comes to privacy.
Google has announced that Project Fi customers will soon have access to its secure VPN services for all connections, no matter whether they're using mobile data or Wi-Fi. The carrier already utilizes Google's VPN when connecting to one of the company's 2 million free public hotspots, but now Google is extending the same measure of security to web traffic over LTE towers as well.
Theoretically, this move makes Project Fi arguably the best wireless carrier you'll find right now in terms of privacy. The feature will roll out for subscribers next week. When it does, VPN use over mobile networks will be optional and can be switched on or off via the Tools menu of the Project Fi app through the "Enhanced Network Beta" toggle.
Google says that its VPN prevents anyone from seeing your footsteps online, including Google's network partners (T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular) as well as the search giant itself. However, Google did confirm to The Verge that the company is obliged to "comply with applicable laws and regulations, or as required by court or government orders," in the event it must fork over data to the authorities.
There's another caveat here. According to Google, using the VPN will tack on about 10 percent extra data, on average, compared to typical usage. This is because the phone has to ping Google's servers rather than simply the destination alone. Given that Project Fi abides by a pay-for-what-you-use approach, this won't be the greatest news for customers.
Still, if you value privacy, Google opening up its VPN to cellular data is a win. And thanks to other improvements made to Project Fi in the background, Google says hand-offs between mobile data and Wi-Fi should now be faster than ever before. The company says it's reduced the hand-off time by up to 40 percent — critical for a carrier like Project Fi that operates on the assumption that you'll be bouncing back and forth between data towers and public networks.