Following a 56% increase in new customer sign-ups, VPN provider IVPN has conducted a survey showing that Edward Snowden’s NSA spying revelations are the largest single reason for a recent upsurge in VPN use, one that many VPN providers have also reported witnessing. Although the 1,054 new customers who answered IVPN’s survey can hardly be called an extensive survey group, the results are nevertheless very interesting.
That the PRISM program, which effectively sets out spy on every netizen in the world’s every online action (plus phone calls) is the number one reason for more and more people choosing to use VPN is not particularly surprising, but that The Patriot Act (the sweeping legislation rushed into place by the Bush administration following 9/11) is the number two is interesting. It is this legislation that provides the legal framework on which the NSA and its PRISM program operates, although as the scandal get deeper, it seems that the NSA has ‘willfully violated’ even its own Patriot Act based mandate.
SOPA and CISPA were popular named reasons, although both of these pieces of legislation are now redundant (the Stop Online Privacy Act was defeated by The House Judiciary Committee, while the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement has been dropped in the face of mass unpopularity). While these Acts seems somewhat tame when compared to the scope of the PRISM program, and are now theoretically dead, the fact that so many respondents cited them suggests that many fear (quite rightly in our opinion) they will raise their ugly heads again.
Of the ‘None of the above’ and Other respondents, IVPN allowed them to submit their own reasons, and found that ‘what we got back was a mixed bag’ which included national (i.e. non US and UK) legislation, DMCA notices and secure access to WiFi hotspots. More amusing answers that we think worth repeating are ‘the general cuntness of the UK authorities’ and ‘fucking Pakistani idiots’!
As noted earlier, it us not just IVPN that has seen a rise in sign-ups, and Private Internet Access, Ipreditor and Privacy.i.o have all reported a surge of interest to TorrentFreak, with Privacy.i.o noting that the NSA is commonly referenced.
Both IVPN and Privacy.i.o are to be commended for rushing to point out that using a VPN service such as theirs does not really provide much protection against the PRISM program, as it does not prevent the NSA from reading your Gmail and Facebook posts, or listening in on your Skype conversations.
However, we would like to add that VPN is a very effective way to anonymise general internet surfing and P2P downloading, and when combined with other measures (such as those outlined in our Ultimate Privacy Guide) is a vital element in securing your online privacy.