ISPs can see all your data that isn’t encrypted, what websites you visit, the times during the day you are active and inactive, and where you are located. Even if communication with a website is encrypted (with HTTPS), not every website and every web page implements HTTPS and not all your Internet traffic is web based, such as your emails. In other words, ISPs know a lot about you (and your family) and with the passage of this resolution, would be allowed to sell this data to advertisers and other companies.
For privacy advocates, this is a very shocking and concerning situation. Thankfully, there is a fairly straightforward technology proven and available that will keep your data private from ISPs: Virtual Private Network, or VPN.
A VPN enables you to create a secure connection between your device (VPN Client) and a VPN Server running somewhere in the Internet. All the data between these two entities is strongly encrypted, thereby preventing the ISPs from seeing it and associating it with you. VPNs have traditionally been used by businesses to allow remote users access to their business’ network, but increasingly are being leveraged for personal use. VPNs also have additional benefits:
- Provides you privacy when using public wifi networks, such as in airports, hotels, and Starbucks.
- Enables you to access data in a different country that is normally blocked because of your location.
- Protects you from government spying.
They are negatives to using a VPN:
- You are shifting trust from the ISP to the VPN service provider.
- Your performance is affected because all your traffic is passing through additional software layers (VPN Client and Server).
- Your traffic between the VPN Server and your final destination is once again unencrypted (except when using HTTPS), so normal good practices are still important (such as strong passwords).
- If you opt for a commercial VPN service, you will have a monthly fee.
If you decide to shop for a VPN service, be sure to check the following buying criteria:
- Privacy (Do they keep logs on your usage?)
- Security (Are they using the strongest encryption protocols?)
- Location of VPN Servers (if you travel all over, the more available servers, the better)
- Any limitations such as monthly traffic volume, number of simultaneous connections, supported platforms (free VPN services often have limitations in these areas)
- Support policy
- Cancellation policy
In preparing this blog, I found a recent article claiming these companies are the best VPN providers (be aware I have not researched these companies, so have no opinion and am not endorsing them): ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Purevpn, IPVanish, VyprVPN
One final option in terms of web browsing: the Opera web browser, which is the only web browser thus far with VPN support built in for free (and quite fast too!).