What Is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Can It Protect My Data?

If you have been watching the news lately then you have likely seen reports of government snooping and your browsing data being sold to marketing companies to help better target advertisements. If this has you a little worried about what is happening with your computer data, you aren’t alone. More and more concerned internet users are looking for services that can help them to protect their internet usage. One of the most popular services comes in the form of a VPN.

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network.

If you were to imagine your connection to the internet as a tunnel. The tunnel connects your computer or your phone to your ISP (Internet Service Provider), who then finds you the internet page and returns it to your screen. In fact, any information sent to or from your computer or cell phone passes through this tunnel.

As your information is sent, such as your bank’s website address, what you looked for on the Groupon Coupons page for Samsung, right through to the text in your emails and messages through this tunnel, your ISP keeps a record.

This record can now be used by ISPs to sell to marketing companies for profit. Profit of which you, as a consumer, don’t see any of. In addition to selling this information, the information can also be accessed by any government agency who wants it. Even if your ISP doesn’t cooperate, there are numerous hacking programs and services that can intercept your information during its journey through the tunnel.

This is where a VPN comes in. Imagine a VPN as a secure and encrypted tunnel within your regular internet tunnel.

With a VPN activated and running on your computer or mobile device, instead of knowing what websites you visited and who you spoke to, your ISP only knows that you connected to a VPN. That’s it. All of the browsing data that is transmitted is protected from your ISP via heavy encryption.

This means that even if your ISP wanted to, they don’t have the information to sell or give to law enforcement agencies.

However, before you rejoice that all of your browsing information will now be secured, it’s important to remember that you are still sending your information through a tunnel.

While it may not be your ISP, is it now your VPN provider who holds all of the browsing data about you. Keep in mind that they can’t access your internet banking details, however, they do have a record of the sites you visited and who you spoke to.

For this reason, it is important to choose your VPN wisely. Look for a service that has been around for awhile, offers strong encryption, fast speeds, and is preferably located outside of the country.

The purpose for a VPN located outside of your country is to further protect your data. For example, should you choose a VPN service located in a country with strong consumer data protection laws, then your information may not be able to be passed back to any agencies in your home country.

While a VPN service can certainly afford users a level of protection that their ISP will not offer, it is important that all users remember that they are just moving their data to another provider. For this reason, it’s important to choose a quality service that you trust and one with a reputation for destroying customer data regularly and one that is known for protecting customer data when it requested.

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