Since its inception, the World Wide Web has been many things to many people, but it’s hardly the place to expect privacy. After all, look for a new thingamajig once in your favorite search engine and, thanks to advertisers tracking that interest, the next day an assortment of thingamajig ads will show up in a banner, personalized just for you.
We fully understand that someone needs to pay for all that shiny new content everyday, and targeted advertising—getting your eyeballs to look at stuff you would potentially want to buy—is a profitable way to do that. However, there has been a recent nullification of the FCC’s broadband privacy protections, allowing ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to collect and sell your browsing data. With this change in the FCC’s policy, many folks are reasonably concerned with the potentially unrestricted sharing of their private information and are looking to be a bit more anonymous on the internet.
A Virtual Private Network, often referred to as a VPN, is a way to encrypt internet communication and make it not so easy to share your private info with your ISP. Many companies employ a corporate VPN to allow their employees to access company resources and data remotely, such as from home or while traveling, while maintaining the security and integrity of their network. Another type of VPN is a consumer VPN, where the individual sends their network traffic to a VPN service via a VPN tunnel. The idea is that data is sent via an encrypted protocol, keeping ISPs (and other three letter agencies) from intercepting the traffic to maintain privacy. It’s an effective strategy, though it’s getting increasingly unclear precisely how secure the data is, who can gain access to it, and if the VPN service is any less nefarious than your ISP.