Many people falsely believed that the only threat they face online is a hacker or a computer virus. This turned out to not be the case as governments the world over have been found to be using the Internet to track people’s information and do mass surveillance. You can be sure that they’re following the activity of online activists, especially in more restrictive countries. Do not fool yourself, these restrictive countries can include both the UK and the USA.
Even the most common of online activist activities can be tracked and used against you if you don’t protect yourself. This is where a VPN service comes in handy.
A high quality VPN which does not log your user data, such as IPVanish, will help online activists:
- Protect their privacy
- Keep counter-protestors from tracking them
- Get their freedom of speech back as IP address tracking ends
Consider it a little piece of mind while you’re giving people a piece of your mind!
The most obvious way that a VPN helps activists is by helping those living under the most oppressive regimes (Even the UK has more censorship and surveillance than you think) reach blocked websites and content. This is accomplished by going around local Internet filters and instead going through the servers of a country which does not have these restrictions. This is used in instances of geo-blocking.
The other benefit is that it protects you against your own ISP. For example, in the European Union ISPs are required to record online user data. This collection is taken for the entirety of a user’s subscription and then stored for up to two years after a cancellation. A VPN makes it so your ISP can not track this information using encryption. The encryption begins right at your computer so that all that your ISP will see is encrypted traffic which it cannot read or record.
For the American readers of this article, ISPs do not have any current obligation to retain this data – they just do it anyway. All ISPs in the USA will gather this data and use it to cooperate with local law enforcement. Don’t be surprised if European Union laws come into effect soon as the current administration is pushing for them.
Do you have nothing to fear if you’re a law abiding activist?
The whole point of most activism is to oppose current laws, regulations, and government actions. This isn’t about legality, this is about having the chance to speak your mind without being put under surveillance. Without fear of reprisal from the state, state actors, or the worst black hat hackers.
Furthermore, there have been a number of instances in the past where activists who live in democracies have had to break illegitimate laws in order to protest for their cause.
“Outrageous!” you say, “You should never break the law!” As a white man living in South Africa with his black girlfriend, I beg to differ on that statement. Apartheid did not end because people asked politely, the future of activism will depend on the breaking of laws all the same.
A modern example of an activist who could use a VPN for protection
As a modern day example, and not in any way to compare it with ending apartheid, many people these days are looking to change marijuana laws.
Reform of marijuana prohibition laws has already happened in Washington and Colorado, but were those who once broke the law and demanded reform law breakers? Yes, one can only assume that they were using it during its illegal period in order to know it is a law which is unjust. Are those in other states who are currently lobbying for a change breaking the current laws which they see as illegitimate laws? Yes, for the same reason.
Now assumptions are not how the law works, you can’t assume that just because someone is an activist for marijuana reform that they’re using it. But your ISP can certainly track your participation in forums and on websites which are associated with it and relay that information to any interested police agency.
— Adam Ebbin (@AdamEbbin) January 23, 2017
Those who are activists can give themselves an extra layer of protection by using a VPN service. Once the laws are changed, and people are given the freedom they seek, they will no longer have to worry about the illegal acts they were once committing. Laws can change, your ability to freely speak your mind should not.
Feature image via lightwavemedia / Shutterstock