I’ve never been a really tech-savvy person, but I’m concerned about internet privacy. In fact, maybe I’m concerned about internet privacy because I’ve never been a really tech-savvy person! I really don’t know what the websites I visit know about me or how they collect it. And I don’t know what my internet service provider knows, which is a little unnerving.
Lately, I’ve been hearing about VPNs. They seem to offer privacy online, but I don’t really understand how they work. Experts, can you help me? What is a VPN, and can it help me maintain my privacy on the internet?
We live in a connected world. These days, the internet is everywhere: from our homes to our subway stations, we have nearly constant access to the web. Most Americans own and use smartphones, and plenty of us also access the internet on tablets, streaming boxes, and other devices — as well as desktop and laptop computers, of course!
But our time on the internet can feel a little bit like being watched by Big Brother. Tech companies love to collect our data, and they’re doing it more than we may even realize. Our activities are tracked by the websites we visit through tools like cookies, and our internet service providers (ISPs) are keeping tabs on us, too.
There are some things that you can do to limit websites’ ability to track you: for instance, you could turn of cookies in your browser. But if you want more powerful security options, you may want to take a look at VPNs.
A VPN is a virtual private network. The simple explanation goes like this: using a VPN program, your computer can connect to a VPN server located somewhere else. When you use a VPN, your internet traffic is routed through that server, rather than going directly to your computer. And since VPNs create secure, private connections between you and the VPN server, it’s virtually impossible for sites to figure out who or where you are. Traffic goes to and from the VPN server, but your relationship to it is hidden.
This can be a very valuable thing to folks who value privacy. VPNs can be used to hide traffic from ISPs, which makes them popular among people who don’t entirely trust the big monopolies that provide us with internet access. They also make our traffic appear as if it is coming from somewhere else. Some users choose VPN servers in order to appear to be in specific spots, which could give them access to content that would otherwise be unavailable for reasons as varied as copyright laws and government censorship. Others simply want an extra layer of privacy and protection online.
There are free and paid VPN programs available online, and you’ll have lots of options. Take a look around and find one that works for you! Check out review sites and look for brand names that pop up a lot, like Trust Zone VPN. Using a VPN when browsing the internet will help you avoid everything from targeted ads to the prying eyes of criminal hackers. VPNs are a great choice for folks like you who feel that the internet is not as private as they’d prefer it to be. And, fortunately for you, you don’t need to be a tech wiz in order to use a VPN. A quality VPN service will make it easy to activate and deactivate your VPN, and many services even allow you to choose where in the world you would like your traffic to appear to be coming from.
With a little bit of research and a willingness to learn the ropes of a simple VPN service, you could protect your web traffic from prying eyes and rest a little easier. Consider doing so!
“Technology, like art, is a soaring exercise of the human imagination.” — Daniel Bell
- news telescope logo: Palomar Telescope