Editor’s note. This article has been updated with additional info to reflect developments since it was first published last week.
On Tuesday 28 March, Congress sold every single US internet user down the river. And they clearly know it. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have in effect been given the green light to sell or share customers’ detailed web browsing histories and geo-location data with advertisers and partner companies. And worse.
[Update] On 3 April 2017 President Donald Trump surprised no-one by signing the repeal of the FCC’s rules. So it is now official – ISPs have been given the go-ahead to sell your browsing data. Even Trump’s own supporters are left unimpressed. A recent HuffPost/YouGov poll found that 75 percent of Republican voters wanted Trump to veto the bill (and 80 percent of Democrat voters).
Almost immediately after the house vote last week, there was a huge jump in interest in Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).
Google trend data shows that interest in the topics “VPN” and “Virtual Private Network” has increased by 43 percent in recent days.
Interest in ISP and privacy topics has now jumped 3,400 percent and 350 percent respectively. Yikes!
Overall traffic on BestVPN.com spiked by +52.9 percent yesterday, with traffic to our popular 5 Best VPN Services page increasing by a whopping 149.9 percent.
NordVPN’s CMO, Marty P. Kamden, tells us that,
“NordVPN has noticed a sharp increase in inquiries from American Internet users worried about their privacy: the inquiries surged by 86% in the past few days. Such spikes in user interest in VPNs are not unusual – whenever a government announces increase in surveillance, people turn to privacy tools.
We saw similar spikes back in November when UK passed the law dubbed ‘The Snoopers Charter’ or after the revelation about CIA surveillance by the Wikileaks. We are worried about the global tendency to invade Internet users’ privacy, and we are glad we can offer a reliable tool that helps people keep their information private. We want to stress that privacy tools are needed every day, not only during such moments – to protect yourself from ever-growing online security threats and increasing surveillance.”
While IPVanish reports that,
“Traffic and sales were up 50% week over week after the announcement. We’re noticing a sharp increase in demand in all countries where the government doesn’t respect basic privacy rights and Internet freedoms.”
[Update] ExpressVPN has also contacted us with the following statement,
“ExpressVPN is seeing traffic and sales figures spike over 100% from the United States since news of the new threats to internet privacy broke.
It’s very scary to think about the power ISPs have to track, record, and even sell information related to what you do online if you’re not using a VPN.
Whereas your ISP is subject to the whims and wills of whatever draconian law local governments decide to pass, at ExpressVPN, preserving privacy is paramount. In fact, it’s one of the basic principles upon which the company was founded. ExpressVPN’s mission statement is to make it easy for everyone to use the Internet with security, privacy, and freedom.
As VPNs become more mainstream, choosing a VPN provider that has a proven track record of safeguarding users’ privacy, and which does not bow to outside pressure will become critically important.”
So What Does This All Mean?
This data tells us two things. The first is that ordinary US internet users are very unhappy at what their own government has just done. This hardly surprising, as Congress has given the best interests of US citizens a big screw you.
All in the name of maximizing profits for big businesses.
On a more positive note, the data also shows us that ordinary US internet users are not taking being shafted by their own government lying down. They are fighting back in the most effective way possible – by using VPNs to take back control of their own privacy.
The government has proved that it is utterly untrustworthy, and that it holds the best interests of its citizens in utter contempt. It will not protect your privacy (or anything else!) from the rapaciousness of big businesses.
The only way to resist is to take matters into your own hands. Encrypt everything should be your watchwords, and the first place to start is by encrypting your internet connection using a VPN.
How Can a VPN Protect You from Your ISP?
A Virtual Private Network allows you to connect to the internet via a server run by a VPN provider. All data traveling between your computer, phone or tablet, and this “VPN server” is securely encrypted.
This setup means that your ISP cannot see what you get up to on the internet:
- It cannot snoop on your data because it is encrypted
- It cannot see which websites you visit. All it can see is the IP address of the VPN server you are connected to.
In other words, using a VPN almost completely mitigates this betrayal by Congress and your ISP.
Note that your VPN provider can see what you get up to on the internet in the same way that your ISP could before using the VPN. But while your ISP is hell-bent on exploiting your data, most VPN companies’ business models rely on offering privacy. Failure to protect their customers’ privacy would be a commercial disaster. So it comes down to a matter of trust: do you trust your ISP (lol hysterically!) or a reputable VPN company that is in the business of providing privacy?
In order to use a VPN you must first sign up for a VPN service. This typically cost between $5 – $10 a month, with reductions for buying six months or a year at a time. A contract with a VPN service is required to use a VPN.
[Update] A week later…
Google Tends shows that while searches for the term “vpn” spiked just after the House vote last week, interest remains strong.
If we look at searches for “vpn” over the last year, we can see just how dramatic an effect last week’s ruling as had! That is a jump of 100 percent over just a few days!
This has been a terrible time for internet privacy, but the sharp rise in interest in VPNs is heartening. It shows that people are willing to take matters into their own hands and push back against this shocking betrayal by their so-called leaders.