April Fools is well over and it appears Cloudflare wasn’t joking. On April 1st, the company announced 126.96.36.199, a privacy-focused DNS service that it calls “the internet’s fastest”.
The release date was a reference to its name, being the first day of the 4th month, or 4/1. The company has promised to wipe all user logs within 24 hours, while never writing the querying IP addresses to disk. By doing so, it hopes to protect users from censorship, mass surveillance, and targetted ads.
For the unfamiliar, DNS stands for Domain Name System. Essentially, it’s the service that converts the URLs you type in your browser into the series of numbers computers can understand. By default, your ISP or mobile network provider works as your DNS ‘resolver’, and that can come with privacy issues.
Surveillance and Competitors
Even if the website you visit uses SSL encryption, your ISP will know you’ve visited. It keeps a log of all these visits, building a profile of every website you’ve visited. In some cases, providers have used this information to target advertisements or send it to intelligence agencies.
In the UK, the 2016 Investigatory Powers Act forces ISP’s to keep these records for a year, with police, tax bodies, and even the food standards agency able to access them without a warrant. Though Cloudflare’s service won’t protect against all forms of surveillance, it offers significant protection compared to user’s default ISPs.
The difference is particularly significant when compared to Google’s public DNS, which is one of the most popular. The company stores logs for 24 to 48 hours, as well as random collection of permanent location data, websites you visit, and other technical data. It’s worth noting, however, that Google doesn’t tie this to any identifying information.
As such, a bigger pull for some may be the speed. Cloudflare used independent monitor DNS Perf to show a public query speed of 13.85 ms. In comparison, Google offers 34.47 ms, and OpenDNS 20.66.
At first look, Cloudflare’s DNS seems like a no-brainer, but experience could vary depending on the user’s location. However, the company is rapidly building data centers across the world, with the goal to reduce latency to within 10 ms for all users.