3 Ways a VPN Can Shield You From Big Brother’s Surveillance Panopticon

Christian Cawley 19-05-2017

The net is closing in on digital freedom. Net neutrality has been repealed, your government and ISP are spying on you, and even your email isn’t as secure as you think it is.


In short, THEY want to know everything about you. Where you shop, what car you drive, who you do business with, and what interesting… habits you may have. And at the same time, THEY want to keep their own preferences, deals, and vehicles strictly under wraps.

But there is a way to fight back. All you need is a virtual private network (VPN) account and a few extra dollars a month (although free VPNs are available 8 Totally Free VPN Services to Protect Your Privacy Free unlimited data VPNs don't exist unless they're scams. Here are the best actually free VPNs around that you can try safely. Read More ).

So Many Reasons to Use a VPN

Good, reliable, and secure VPN accounts are available for under $10 a month. But why should you use a virtual private network?

With a VPN client installed on your computer, phone, tablet, or even router, your data is sent via an encrypted connection, enabling you to create a secure connection with your website of choice. This connection is routed via a remote server, increasing your anonymity. Note that logging into the site will reveal who you are, and that your usual location will typically be attached to this information.

We’ve previously examined key reasons to use a VPN 11 Reasons Why You Need a VPN and What It Is Virtual private networks can protect your privacy. We explain what exactly they do and why you should use a VPN. Read More . Here, we look at three more.


1. VPNs Protect Net Neutrality

On April 3rd, 2017, President Donald Trump initiated a repeal of the broadband privacy rules that were a cornerstone of net neutrality A Simple Explanation of What Net Neutrality Is All About Net Neutrality is a complex topic, but this website does a great job explaining it in terms you'll understand. Read More .

Image Credit: Bakhtiar Zein via Shutterstock

As well as allowing ISPs to sell information about their customers’ browsing habits, it enables the providers of internet services to route data the way they see fit, and potentially even charge for premium content like Facebook or YouTube.

If an ISP can prioritize certain websites over others, these will be the big hitters. And that means that the little guys will suffer. Competition will be stifled.


Fortunately, a VPN can stop this from becoming a problem for you.

Using a VPN means that content will not slow down. The nature of your connection will be unknown, so the data cannot be prioritized or demoted. And if content should be blocked, a VPN client allows you to easily switch to a server in a different country.

2. VPNs Help Keep Your Email Secure and Private

A recent survey showed that people have overwhelming trust in big-name email providers, despite these services not offering any real security or privacy. An astonishing 36 percent of respondents to a survey from NordVPN revealed that they consider Gmail to be the most privacy-focused email service. Meanwhile, Outlook was top-rated by 22 percent and Yahoo Mail by 14 percent.

yahoo mail
Image Credit: Ken Wolter via Shutterstock


Clearly, the message isn’t getting through. Only 6.3 percent of respondents were aware of ProtonMail, for instance. As you may know, Yahoo is in trouble — one of its biggest failures of recent years was its leak of 500 million email accounts in 2014 Yahoo! We Lost Your Data! Two Years Ago... Web giant Yahoo has suffered an enormous data breach. The breach, which took place in 2014, resulted in the information of 500 million Yahoo users being offered for sale on the dark web. Read More . Oh, and the additional 32 million accounts leaked in early 2017.

Meanwhile, Outlook accounts linked to Microsoft Office have been hit by ransomware attacks Yes, Ransomware Can Encrypt Your Cloud Storage Several ransomware variants not only attack your main hard drive, but other system drives -- including cloud storage! The time has come to consider how you backup your files and where to keep them. Read More . Gmail accounts can be found for sale on the dark web A Visual Guide to the Deep and Dark Web The Internet is a strange place. It's an awesome place that's filled with all kinds of great entertainment, useful knowledge, and cat pictures, but the Internet has a darker side, too. Read More , and then there’s the advertising…

There are many ways to protect your email accounts, from using two-factor authentication and stronger passwords (and a password manager) to switching to an encrypted email provider The 5 Most Secure and Encrypted Email Providers Fed up with government and third-party surveillance of your emails? Protect your messages with a secure encrypted email service. Read More , such as ProtonMail, Tutanota, or Countermail.

But you can also employ a VPN to ensure that your email traffic is encrypted between your computer and the VPN server. All that a hacker will be able to observe is that connection. All other information — your username, password, and the message contents — is encrypted.


3. Bypass Government and ISP Surveillance

ISP surveillance with regards to net neutrality is only one problem. In the UK, active surveillance has been mandated thanks to the passing of the Investigatory Powers Bill (aka the “Snooper’s Charter”) How the UK's Snooper's Charter Could Affect the Whole World The Investigatory Powers Bill, better known as the "Snooper's Charter", is here. You might think it only affects the UK, but you'd be wrong. This affects everyone, across the whole world. Read More . This delivers access to 12 months of web history, and live online surveillance, to security services and law enforcement. Useful for fighting crime and terrorism, but considered overkill by many. The systems proposed lack oversight, and could easily be subverted by hackers.

This will affect anyone in the U.K., whether resident or passing through for work or holiday.

And it isn’t just the U.K. where online government surveillance is a privacy issue. States and nations around the world have been tightening their grip on the digital space, overseeing comments, blocking social networks, and stifling dissent.

While various tools can be used to combat this (such as guerrilla radio stations Broadcast Your Own FM Radio Station, with a Raspberry Pi Sick of listening to babbling DJs and want to broadcast your own radio station? Raspberry Pi will come to your rescue, with its previously unknown ability to broadcast on the FM band. Read More and websites hosted on a Raspberry Pi How to Host Your Own Website on a Raspberry Pi Need to run a website but can't afford the hosting costs? Build your own LAMP-capable web server with a low-powered Raspberry Pi. Read More ), the key element to such an arsenal must be a VPN.

Three Strong Reasons: Which VPN Should You Choose?

Now that you know why you really need a VPN, the time has come to make a choice. Where should you start? And if you’re already using a VPN, is now the time to switch to a paid solution 5 Reasons Why Free VPNs Just Don't Cut It VPNs are all the rage, but if you're thinking of going the free route, please reconsider. Free VPN services come with risks that may not be worth taking... Read More ?

expressvpn android review

We have spent a lot of time looking at VPN services, collating our favorites in our best VPNs list The Best VPN Services We've compiled a list of what we consider to be the best Virtual Private Network (VPN) service providers, grouped by premium, free, and torrent-friendly. Read More , for you to reference at any time. But although we’ve been impressed with VPNs from many different providers, the one we currently recommend is ExpressVPN, which has client apps for desktop and mobile (pictured, above).

This doesn’t mean that you should follow us blindly, however. Perhaps our recommendation doesn’t suit your needs. Perhaps the way you use the web makes our choice wrong for you. That’s fine — there are many good options available.

Get a VPN Today: There’s No Excuse!

One of our goals at MakeUseOf is to give you the tools to enjoy life safely and securely, whether you’re looking for productivity tips, Android hacks, or building your own PC How To Build Your Own PC It's very gratifying to build your own PC; as well as intimidating. But the process itself is actually quite simple. We'll walk you through everything you need to know. Read More . We realize that adding an extra $10 to your monthly internet budget is not ideal, but if you are concerned about the shocking rollback on net neutrality, you need a VPN. Unhappy at the security on Gmail and Outlook? Afraid of the state’s surveillance creep?

Get a VPN.

Perhaps you have one already? What are your thoughts on the net neutrality rollback or ISP surveillance? Tell us in the comments.

Image Credits: Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock

Related topics: Surveillance, VPN.

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  1. Henry
    May 22, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    In my experience, no other vpn service comes close to ExpressVPN.

  2. Gerry
    May 20, 2017 at 1:19 am

    I don't know anything, but what I hear is that, while using a VPN prevents your ISP from knowing your surfing destinations, the VPN server knows. What reason is there to trust them any more than an ISP?

    • Benthere
      March 19, 2020 at 6:24 am

      Gerry, We have something better than the reason, we have the proof that PIA vpn service is trustworthy. They received a court order to hand over the data on a customer of theirs. They showed up in court and reported to the courts they keep no such data therefore unable to comply with court order. Private Internet Access is they only one that has proved it in a court of law that I am aware of.