It seems our privacy is constantly under fire from all sides if you look closely enough at the news. Governments, ISPs and even banks would, it seems, prefer to be able to monitor users' activities closely, and sell their data to others. Some organizations and governments not only assume that right, but are also taking steps to bring citizens' transparency on the internet into law.
From November 1, Russia will ban VPNs and proxies for accessing content unavailable in the country, and users will also have to register a mobile number to use any messaging app available there. China is taking similar steps and has already required Apple to remove VPN apps from the App Store in the country.
If you thought such extreme measures against privacy only exist in countries like Russia and China, think again; right now, as shown in the image, a bill in the United States, called H.J.Res.86 is being proposed to, as one Redditor puts it:
[..] allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to sell private browsing information and app data usage to third parties. What's worse, they can manipulate your Internet experience with ad injections and search redirections. This is a massive violation of privacy and should be a major concern to all citizens.
U.S. based VPN provider London Media Trust, which created Private Internet Access, took out the full page ad in the New York Times back in March to make people aware of the bill, and suggests that your House Representative vote against it.
So what is a VPN?
A VPN or Virtual Private Network is a method used to add security and privacy to private and public networks, like WiFi Hotspots and the Internet. VPNs are most often used by corporations to protect sensitive data. However, using a personal VPN is increasingly becoming more popular as more interactions that were previously face-to-face transition to the Internet. Privacy is increased with a VPN because the user's initial IP address is replaced with one from the VPN provider. This method allows subscribers to attain an IP address from any gateway city the VPN service provides. For instance, you may live in San Francisco, but with a VPN, you can appear to live in Amsterdam, New York, or any number of gateway cities. - Source: WhatIsMyIP
When considering a VPN service, look for options like DNS Leak protection, as covered in our guide, which Private Internet Access (PIA) provides, among others, and if they log your activities or not. It's always best to research it before buying into such a service; a good starting point would be TorrentFreak, which regularly tracks trustworthiness of VPNs.
I'm doing nothing illegal, so why should I care?
This is a fair question to ask, and is something we come across often in the comments of all privacy-related articles. You should care, because even if you aren't doing anything illegal, like downloading copyrighted content that you haven't paid for, ISPs are already starting to gather browsing behavior to sell on to eager third parties so they can display advertising catered to you, or even build a personalized online profile of you to sell on or use. Even banks are getting in on it by wanting to sell your transaction data.
A VPN goes a long way to counter such activities by ISPs or many of the free services we use online, such as social media, tracking where you go online. Just today we have put up a great deal where you can save 63% off a two year subscription to PIA VPN, you can even save an additional 15% off by entering the voucher code PIA15 when checking out, which brings the total cost down from $166, to just over fifty bucks.
Do you use a VPN, which one and why? Leave a comment below.