ZenMate is a free proxy browser addon for Chrome, Opera and Firefox, it works in your desktop computer or mobile device and it has been designed to protect your Internet browsing from hackers and government spying. The addon encrypts browser traffic to stop an Internet Service Provider or malicious hacker from snooping what sites you visit, keeping logs or blocking access to websites.
Unlike a VPN, ZenMate only protects the Internet browser, any other activity you do, like automatic updates or P2P programs, are not protected by this extension. Additionally, the extension does not insulate you from advertisers tracking you with cookies, and your computer IP can still be uncovered if you visit a website with plugins like Flash or Java. ZenMate developers recommend that you block Flash in your browser to stop this from happening.
DNS leaks are taken care of by the extension with Google Public DNS. This does not mean that your privacy is at the hands of Google, only a ZenMate IP address will be visible in Google DNS servers.
You have to register entering a valid email address to activate ZenMate, the process takes less than a minute and it is simple. Servers are available in the USA, Europe and Asia, they mask your computer IP and help you watch georestricted online TV from abroad, but it did not work for me in all sites. Hulu often blocked me displaying a message saying that I was behind a proxy and I couldn’t change my IP to a different one, ZenMate free service assigns computer IPs at random and does not allow for manual server change in the same country. When using the Swiss proxy I also found out that many sites would believe I was in Turkey.
There is not much a proxy provider can do about server location being wrongly labelled and you should expect it from similar services, however, paid for VPN or proxies allow users to change server when that happens. I politely contacted ZenMate staff in Twitter letting them know about the Hulu block asking if there was any way around, they never bothered to reply.
Various tests I did, based on my home Internet connection of 10Mb, showed ZenMate proxy speed of in between 2Mb/9Mb depending on the day and server. Browsing webpages with ZenMate produced no delay and it was unnoticeable, streaming video in YouTube was fine too and switching from one country to another always went smooth, taking less than two seconds, quicker than a VPN switch. The company points out that they are in Germany and your privacy is protected under German law but they don’t mention anything about how long for they keep connection logs.
Overall, I am definitely comfortable using ZenMate to access blocked websites, but I would never use them for strong privacy or with the intention to stream georestricted content because it won’t work for this. The lack of detailed information about log retention and Flash plugin revealing my computer IP makes ZenMate not suitable for strong privacy, the permanent Hulu block makes it not suitable to watch georestricted content.
Zenmate says that the free version will always exist and they are working in a new paid for ZenMate extension with more features. I believe a VPN is far superior than a single proxy browser addon and unless their paid version costs half price of a VPN I can’t see myself paying for their premium extension when it comes out.