Huge rise in use of online privacy tools reported as fears of privacy erosion grow

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

January 22, 2014

A new survey by GlobalWebIndex, which aggregates survey data from 170,000 internet users worldwide, shows how growing worry about erosion of privacy in the wake of Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations, and increasing worry about the way in which commercial internet companies track and exploit users data, has led to surge in the use of privacy tools such as Tor and VPN.

The research found that 56 percent of people surveyed felt the internet is eroding their personal privacy, and that an estimated 28 percent (a walloping 415 million people worldwide) use tools designed to afford anonymity and protect privacy when online.

The most popular such tool is Tor, which the survey found was used by 11% of users. Indonesia topped the list of Tor users with a 21 percent userbase and, interestingly, also has the most VPN users. We discuss reasons for this in our article 5 Best VPNs for Indonesia. Vietnam was next (18 percent), followed by India (15 percent).

Worldwide VPN use is also very high:

vpn use worldwide

As noted earlier, Indonesia tops the list with 42 percent of its internet users protecting their privacy using proxy services or VPN, while Japan is at the bottom with just 5 percent.

Interestingly, because VPN masks the true location of a user, these numbers may be somewhat inaccurate, since VPN users in for example China, may appear to be located in the US. Jason Mander, GWI’s head of trends explains,

VPNs serve a perfect dual purpose for consumers in lots of markets, allowing them to access restricted content and better content as well as stay anonymous. It’s a perfect combination and one that is likely to see their popularity grow. It also means that the numbers using sites such as Facebook in China are likely to have been under-estimated, and that geo-located advertising is completely missing the mark for these internet users.

This means that up to 160 million internet users in China could be using VPN to access Facebook and Twitter. Of the 34 percent (if not higher) of China’s online population who use VPN or proxies, 60 percent do so to access  YouTube, and 55 percent use it to access Facebook and Twitter.

As Mander noted, VPN are ‘likely to see their popularity grow’, which is very good thing in this increasingly surveillance-ridden world.  It also demonstrates that ordinary people are much more willing and able to take privacy matters into their own hands when failed (or betrayed) by governments and big business,

‘The figures also suggest that the global internet audience is a lot savvier and more concerned about this type of thing than is traditionally supposed, and chimes with the statistic that 55% are concerned about their privacy being eroded by the internet,’ said Mander.

Exclusive Offer
Get NordVPN for only