Controlling the flow of information has become a priority for many governments around the world in the age of digital communication. Just look at the recent events in Egypt which serve as an example of how digital information is parsed out in a crisis. It is important to understand how governments seek to control information, why they do it, and how you can avoid being caught in the crossfire by using your own VPN.
Isn’t the Internet unregulated?
Society has a tendency to think of the Internet as the last outpost of expressive freedom, but is it really as unregulated as one might think? Perhaps in the early days of the Web this was so, but in today’s world websites are routinely censored and blocked for a variety of reasons.
Would you like to visit a dating website while online in Saudi Arabia? How about using Skype in Oman? Or maybe you just want to watch a movie with your Netflix while vacationing in the Grand Caymans. In all of these scenarios you are out of luck unless you have your own VPN account.
Granted, all of the situations we mentioned aren’t due to some nefarious plan by a country to block information. Some services, like Netflix and Hulu, just aren’t available outside of the US. The point is that anyone who has traveled to various parts of the globe knows they cannot take digital services for granted.
How do governments control information?
Censorship and regulation of the Internet can be accomplished in a variety of ways. One of the first methods is through proxy servers / firewalls.
Some regions control information by monopolizing the ISP’s within a country. Many countries in the Arab Peninsula have ISP’s which are state-owned. These Internet Service Providers can use software to restrict website access, and they do. They block access to certain websites that they deem unacceptable in one manner or another. Many appear to be blocked for no apparent reason.
By using a VPN, your IP address reveals that you are accessing the Internet from a location such as the US, accessing Netflix or Skype won’t be a problem. Your IP is basically telling the website that you’re in a non-restricted area. At the same time software used on proxy servers to block sites and ports will be unable to monitor encrypted VPN traffic and hence remains unblocked/unfiltered.
Proxy servers is used by many countries to block access to sites. The UK want to ban adult sites, and probably gambling sites too if they succeed in blocking sex sites.
Why do governments control information?
There can be a variety of reasons for Internet censorship, but most have to do with the politics or culture of a specific nation.
Arab countries are very intolerant of pornography, homosexuality, and anything which violates the principles espoused by their faith. In the US or UK, these types of websites don’t encounter nearly as much resistance. Arab nations take a proactive stance by simply eliminating the offensive material from view.
Those who live in democratic countries are also used to the freedom of being able to engage in political discussion and question the policies of their government. In other countries, like China, this is not permitted. Many news sites and blogs have fallen victim to the Great Firewall of China.
Finally, governments willingly cooperate with some digital media services to prevent piracy and unauthorized viewing of restricted content.
So, what’s the big deal about blocked websites?
The big deal is that some people who want to view restricted content while they are traveling can’t, even though their home country allows access. If you pay for a service, shouldn’t you be able to access that service whenever and wherever you choose?
You might think that the only people who want to access restricted websites are criminals or pedophiles. Wrong answer. What about the expatriate who is working on an oil rig in the Persian Gulf and wants to be able to talk to their family via Skype? What about members of the military serving abroad? Sure, they may be able to access unrestricted Internet while they are on base, but what if they live off-post in Germany and have to use a German ISP at home? Many of their services will be restricted.
Even at home, Internet users just might want the added comfort of the encryption a VPN offers. The bottom line is that censorship of the Internet is viewed by some as an attack on personal freedom.
What if I do not use a VPN account?
If you do not use a VPN, it basically works this way. Every computer that accesses the Internet possesses a numerical identifier that is unique, like a fingerprint (e.g. 18.104.22.168). This is called an IP address. Whenever your computer asks a server to distribute content, its IP address is revealed. The server then knows where to send the digital content. ISP’s are given blocks of IP addresses to provide to their customers, and these addresses, in many cases, can be very accurate in determining the physical location of your computer. Enormous databases have been complied which map the IP addresses of different countries. If you do not use a VPN your location is known but with a VPN you are anonymous and traffic sent and received is encrypted.
Fight back with a VPN
You don’t have to settle for a censored Internet. You don’t have to allow a government to decide what you should look at online. You don’t have to sacrifice your local news when traveling. All of these things can be circumvented with a VPN.
If you haven’t jumped on the VPN bandwagon yet, you will. The past year alone has seen a rapid rise in the use of private VPN’s as web surfers become more aware of security and protecting their private data. When the cost is so affordable (we charge about 0.27 cents a day for a year of private VPN service), why wouldn’t you take that extra step to protect your information and ensure unrestricted access to your services? It just makes good techno-sense. Don’t get swept up in government efforts to restrict digital media, buy a vpn from VPN-accounts.com
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