How to protect your privacy online

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You may by now have heard of VPN, which stands short for virtual private network. In short, a VPN is a typically paid service which encrypts the network data on your computer so that third parties cannot access what you browse.

The VPN routes all the encrypted internet traffic through a secure server before sending it to the website you are trying to access. This way, the website you visit and other online services are prevented from accessing your IP address. In other words, it is a safe tunnel that leads from your PC to the internet, while enabling you to hide your IP address, avoid tracking, monitoring, and censorship. Your computer will appear to have the IP address of the VPN server, masking your identity and location. Your identity, location and all internet searches will, therefore, be hidden.

Why consider a VPN?

The benefit of a VPN is that it protects your privacy from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to gather information and data about you by recording your activities and selling your search history to potential advertisers. A VPN will also make the job of a hacker much harder.  A VPN is also a valuable tool when using public Wi-Fi, like in a coffee shop, hotel and airport as you have no way of knowing how secure the internet connection is. Without a VPN, your online presence is completely open and vulnerable for use by your ISP, third parties and any government surveillance.

Am I completely invisible with a VPN?

While VPN is a great tool to provide you with online anonymity, it is also worth noting that you are not completely invisible. A VPN alone is not going to wipe your online activity. Even if you use a VPN, any websites that requires you to log in to an account will be able to track your online presence. For example, you will not be able to hide your browsing activity from Google if you are logged into your Google account, with or without a VPN. This will also apply to your social media accounts and shopping websites.

Even though you are using a VPN, the actual VPN provider will have access to your real IP address and will also know your name and address. If the VPN provider was asked to give up your information to for example a government agency, you will not be protected.

You may, therefore, want to consider finding a VPN provider which never stores logs of your actual IP address or any of the websites your IP address visited through their servers. With such VPN policy, the VPN provider would be unable to provide your details to a government agency even if requested to do so.

Is it worth getting a VPN?

It all depends on your personal circumstances and needs. If you are concerned about your privacy, it is worth getting a VPN but be aware that the most reliable providers are the paid for from a company with a good reputation. Avoid using the free VPN services as they will not do the job. Prices for VPN tend to vary depending on what plan you choose and which provider you choose.

By Mahshid Javaheri

Mahshid Javaheri

After working as a solicitor for 3 years, Mahshid joined as an Editor and contributor of legal content. Mahshid is passionate about connecting practicing lawyer with the wider business community; she helps lawyers create and distribute insightful and actionable legal content that delivers value to businesses, whilst showcasing the lawyers’ expertise.

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