The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to reverse regulations that would have prevented internet service providers (ISPs) from selling users’ web-browsing data without their explicit consent. The decision has left people wondering how to prevent big telecom companies from making money off of their web-browsing data. One solution may be to use a VPN.
What is a VPN?
A VPN is a private, controlled network that connects users to the internet. The connection with the VPN’s server is encrypted, thus making the data confidential while being transported. In short, a user’s connection to a VPN remains private even though the data being transmitted moves over the notoriously public internet.
How Does a VPN Protect User Data?
If you use public, unencrypted Wi-Fi at places such as airports, coffee shops or hotels, you put your privacy at risk. But if you connect to a VPN immediately after connecting to its Wi-Fi, you can surf more safely.
VPNs also keep ISPs in the dark as to what their users are doing while online. The ISP can see that there is a user, but it can’t see what the user is doing online. Some VPNs even allow their users to hide their physical location in order to gain access to geo-restricted content from video-streaming sites.
Are VPNs Reliable?
Using a VPN can enhance your privacy and security, but you should never assume that it is foolproof. A VPN has the potential to do the reverse of what it is intended for, as it can access and track all of your online activities and browsing history. It should also be noted that using a private VPN in the workplace can violate internet policies and be grounds for termination.
For a VPN to provide more privacy than an ISP, you need to confirm that the company offering the VPN is trustworthy, which can be a difficult thing to prove. One indicator of trust is whether the VPN keeps logs of user activity. Still, a company that provides VPNs could misrepresent its practices or accidentally store data for longer than it claims to, rendering the provider’s promise useless.
One way to ensure the reliability of a VPN is to pay for it instead of opting for a free version. A provider that offers VPNs for free may not be able to afford the resources needed to offer the security features it claims to offer.
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