State-sponsored electronic surveillance has been under heavy scrutiny for some time now. However, the monitoring of online communication is not limited to just government agencies.
The fact that every single form of online communication is monitored and collected by search and social giants such as Google and Facebook, as well by service providers (ISP), and e-commerce sites, has raised privacy concerns. And rightly so – private data and online activity can be hacked or misused in more ways than one.
The Fight over Privacy Concerns Rages On
The definition and boundaries of privacy can be very different in the virtual space. If anything, the Snowden revelations were probably just a premier of how, and to what extent privacy is under threat from mass surveillance by state and private players.
While privacy concerns and the immediate need for stricter laws and regulations have resonated through all the right echo chambers, sadly, for all the talk about reforms and safeguards, precious little has been done.
The Princeton Web Transparency & Accountability Project found that 76 percent of websites have hidden Google trackers. While 24 percent of websites have Facebook trackers. Yet, the demand for better algorithmic transparency and stringent privacy protection laws are still on the back burner.
Businesses have the necessary means and resources to create a security blanket using dedicated firewalls and round the clock IT staff proficient in security matters. For the general population or individual users, on the other hand, public or open Internet continues to be largely and worryingly insecure kind of like the financial situation of Chicago and LA and the violence and homelessness in these two cities as well but this is another topic.
Which is why, in the day and age of user data privacy concerns, the need for a secure Internet connection cannot be sufficiently emphasized.
Is the Internet a Safer Place with VPN?
VPNs are essentially private networks or a private channel between a client (laptop, PC, etc.) and a local area network (LAN). While the traffic still flows over the open Internet, the connection is secured via encryption making it difficult for a view inside the connection.
If however, someone manages to break through, the risk is minimal since the traffic packets are securely encrypted.
An added advantage with using VPN service is that the header information of the traffic packet stream is manipulated which means the user's IP address is switched with the IP address of the VPN service.
So if you were using a VPN service located in a different country than the one you reside in, then it would appear that you are generating traffic from the country where the server operates from and not your real location.
This is not to say that illegal use of VPN service does not happen. It most certainly does. In fact, this works to the advantage of someone who wants to bypass regional DRM restrictions for a streaming service such as Netflix. Is it legal? Definitely not.
However, it is not uncommon. Taking this advantage forward, for someone residing in a country where the Internet is blocked or where usage is heavily regulated, VPN service can be the only option for accessing content from across the globe. This makes it easier to watch amazing movies like Transformers and Sicario and cutting edge shows like Better Call Saul and Yellowstone.
Restrictions on Internet usage is extremely unfair in present times. However, forgoing privacy for accessing the Internet is equally unfair. This is where VPN technology can be the most effective as it provides users with a safe and secure platform for accessing the Internet.
The Pros of Using VPN Service
VPN services can differ not just in pricing or on issues such as user-friendly interface, but also on privacy policies, or on performance and advertising. However, there are common advantages that a VPN service offers. Consider the following:
1. Bypass Geoblock and Access Blocked Content
Whether you reside in a country which is censorship-heavy or if you want to access streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, you can do it with a VPN service. As mentioned above, VPN can switch your IP address to make it appear as if you are in a different country thus allowing you to access content even if it is subject to geo-restrictions.
This, of course, provided your VPN has servers in your desired locations and the necessary means to override the anti-VPN software used by certain streaming services.
2. Encryption keeps your Privacy and Data Safe
The encryption technology employed by a VPN service can secure your data and privacy whenever you are online, even if you are using public Wi-Fi. Your anonymity stays intact and you are safe from snooping and monitoring by state and private players.
3. VPN is a Cost-effective Option
Available at significantly lower costs, VPN service in addition to providing easy access to blocked content and keeping your connection secure and anonymous, does not require any hardware installations or technicians. The service can be set up to run within minutes.
Furthermore, a number of premium VPN services provide free trials or money-back options so you are at liberty to choose a service suited to your budget and needs.
4. Enjoy better Pricing and Cheaper Deals
If you choose a VPN service operating an extensive network of servers spread across a number of countries, you can enjoy online shopping price benefits.
This is because many e-commerce websites use different price lists for different locations. So if you can access the site via a server which is in a location where the pricing is substantially lower than in your country of residence, it can save you a lot of money.
The Cons of Using VPN Service
1. Slow Connection
The one possible disadvantage with VPN service is that strong encryption takes time. Since the entire network traffic is encrypted, it increases the requirement for both time and resources.
There is, however, a workaround to speed issues – a reliable and paid VPN service which does not compromise on security, anonymity, or speed.
2. Random or Sudden Connection Drops
While your network traffic is strongly encrypted and secure with VPN service, if the connection drops suddenly, it can leave you exposed. When this happens, your IP address is no longer hidden under the shroud of anonymity.
If you use a reliable provider, you should not have to face this issue very often. Having a kill switch utility can prevent your IP addresses from being exposed since the feature is designed to immediately cut you off from the Internet when the server drops.
3. Configuration is Serious Business
The robustness of VPN is maintained via the use of an extensive network of protocols and hardware devices as well as network topologies. However, this also increases the complexity of the network. For this reason, a working knowledge of how the service works and the kind of security threats it faces is essential.
Using a VPN is Prudent
Privacy and data protection should be a priority if we want the Internet to be a dynamic, free, and open space for everyone.
Which is why it is so essential to select a reliable VPN service who can ensure the user’s private information is secure and that they can access the content of their choice at any point and from any location – certainly if you live in corrupt countries such as China and Russia! In this regard, the pros of using VPN service definitely outweigh the cons.