Ever thought of anonymity on the internet? According to Pew Research Center, 86% of the people have concerned about their online presence to mask up their footsteps in the digital world. According to my experience, this research survey seems ambiguous as; in real, most of the people are not concerned about their privacy. However, the research carried in USA where it makes sense to have such results regarding to the internet surveillance. In Sri Lanka, a research carried out from SLCERT reflects that most of the Sri Lankans (Surprisingly 75%; Most of the survey participants were educated and using internet more than 5 years) know how to change Facebook privacy settings to minimise the private data flow to unwanted parties. Is it really worth?
Internet users may say, but the privacy leaks behind the router where the ISPs and Government sniffs the wires (Of course, for legal requirements ; And some.. you know… ). That is where VPN comes in. A privacy oriented VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a private network between (We call it tunnel) you and the VPN server which cannot be monitored by the outsiders (May include the Government and the ISPs). Whatever…. any VPN service provider can make claims that it will give you the best VPN service which will prevent your IP Address from leaking. However, the best example is HideMyASS VPN service. It has transferred the logs to the court due to the legal enforcement. That logs contained the IP addresses the offender connected and the intermediaries. It is then tracked by a DNS provider to catch up useful information. In the above scenario, using a VPN has not been affected positively, other than taking time to investigate.
Then what is the solution? It is recommended to use a GOOD VPN service which does not log the internet activity, supports TOR and operates in a remote country (Where we can trust and there is no law enforcement regarding to gather logs from VPN providers). The previously discussed VPN provider has logged its data, operates in England and the offender has not used TOR over the VPN to secure it more.
Consumers and VPN
Half of the consumers are using a VPN service to access geographically restricted content, access restricted websites within a workplace and to access torrent services anonymously. It is not a great investment from the consumer himself. Most of the good VPN services are not providing a free service. They typically cost around 5 USD per month where most of them convincing the consumer to choose 1 – 2 year plan (Psychology !!!). The free services are the culprits behind the business. It gives limited satisfaction while providing guaranteed performance and privacy upon purchase. This is very similar to medical industry (The lock maker always has the key). This is only happening in developed countries, In 2018 March, Sri Lankan government has banned social media sites because of violence due to ethnicity. At that period, Google showed high demand for VPN services in Sri Lanka. Most of the Sri Lankan people have got to know the term “VPN” in such case. And after that period, the trend has disappeared.
Are we ready to transform?
No, not yet. Even though Edward Snowden has stated his experience regarding to the online identity and Big Data manipulation, no one seems to wipe off the online footprint they have made (Especially Developing Countries). It is mainly because it is hard to adapt to the new behaviours of using the internet. Using a VPN alone will not make any impact unless the user cares about his/her digital footprint which sticks in Social Networks Eg. The Cambridge Analytica Case. In European union, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) has made a huge impact on end consumer’s privacy. Unless they agree, the software/service could not gather any personal data to identify the end-user directly. And the best thing is the user can request the personal data to be removed when he/she has left the service.