Life Hacks, Tech, Now + Beyond

Using a VPN is the first step to making you own personal digital privacy changes

VPN usage is one of the easiest ways to keep your information private, especially with the current state of net neutrality.

If you live in America, chances are you’re familiar with the battle for net neutrality. While many internet service providers (ISP) have made promised to keep user information private, there are still many reasons to limit access to your browsing history. This is where knowing your VPN options can help.

Virtual private networks, or VPNs, work by securing your web traffic from prying eyes looking to monetize or steal your data. And while your ISP may or may not be selling browsing logs to companies. Here are some basic reasons that using a VPN might be right for you.

1. You frequently travel or use public Wi-Fi

[Image description: Regina George asks “Could you give us some privacy for, like, one second?”] via giphy
This one is pretty straight-forward. When traveling, many of us use wi-fi connections in airports, hotels, cafes, etc. I can’t count how many different airports I’ve connected to wi-fi at and never removed from my list of connections. A VPN is the best way to make sure that your information stays in your hands and your hands only. More so, when traveling to countries that don’t have access to certain websites, VPNs can allow you to access the services you need.

2. You want to access streaming content outside of your country

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[Image description: Franchesca Ramsey eats popcorn and points at the viewer.] via giphy
I see you, Kdrama stans.

While some streaming giants like Netflix have been cracking down on attempts to access media through VPN servers, there are still many options in this arena. In some instances, you may connect to a VPN server and find yourself unable to access platforms like Netflix and Hulu. To combat this, many VPN providers have been working to frequently update their products. Depending on your choice of VPN, you’ll be able to view content from different parts of the world without traveling.

3. You have a roommate who won’t stop torrenting files when the internet is under your name

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[Image description: Cecily Strong asks “And like, why? And like, don’t.”] via giphy
A lot of VPN providers allow you to use your VPN on a number of devices without paying extra. That way you can feel safe while browsing on your phone, laptop, tablet, etc. And in the meantime, go ahead and use one of those free device slots for your roommates and living partners. This can make sure that not only is your privacy protected, but you won’t get any of those frustrating emails from your ISP threatening to suspend your service.

And you won’t have to argue with your roommate every time they “forget”.

4. You simply value your digital privacy

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[Image description: Harriet the spy holds up a notebook labeled ‘PRIVATE’ and asks “Can you read this?”] via giphy
If supplied with a warrant or subpoena by government or law enforcement agencies, your ISP is required by law to share your browsing history. While this may not be an everyday situation, you are still within your rights to both understand and protect your digital privacy. Beyond the scope of legal circumstances, it’s probably simply in your best interest to be aware of where and to whom your information goes.

But not all VPNs are created equally. Unfortunately, there are some VPN providers that still log browsing history themselves. If using a VPN sounds like something you’re interested in, make sure to do your research. VPN providers that offer free services are some of the ones to be most cautious with, as they have the ability to sell your browsing history themselves.

Having a VPN allows you to safely work, consume media, and perform research without risking your online privacy. That added layer of privacy is something every internet user should have access to.