Online privacy. Metadata surveillance. PRISM. Internet freedom. These have become buzzwords in recent years as more attacks are levied against those who wish to browse the Internet anonymously and safeguard their data against intrusion by governments and regimes that seek to rule the online landscape with an iron fist. While the US is typically regarded as an outpost of freedom, some activists for Internet freedom have begun to ask a serious question: will the US government try to ban your VPN?
Granted, this question was a lot easier to answer a few years ago. First and foremost, the number of VPN providers was comparatively small then to what it is now. Second, whistleblowers like Edward Snowden have thrown a light on the practices of the NSA and US intelligence gathering. Given today’s political climate, it is a reasonable question to ask. An intelligent answer may be more inspired by a consideration of the US policies on capitalism and a free market economy rather than an exploration of privacy concerns. As is so often stated, one only needs to follow the money.
VPNs provide a valuable and needed service
A core rule of economics is the law of supply and demand. When a market exists for a certain product, providers will arise to supply that product. In recent years VPN usage has been on the rise. Some VPN providers including VPNaccounts.com reported a 50% increase in signups following the Edward Snowden revelations, and there has certainly been an increase in the number of VPN providers that have appeared.
This increase speaks to the awareness of the average Internet user about privacy. The irony here is that asking “will the US government try to ban your VPN” only fuels more concern over Internet freedom. As that concern builds, more people turn to a VPN solution. The demand increases and the supply increases, and in a capitalist society these principles rule the day. The US tends to be very slow in making decisions that impede the march of capitalism.
Of course, the boom in VPN services has been both positive and negative. With the increased interest a multitude of providers have appeared that do not provide the type of service offered by VPNaccounts.com. Most of them operate under the guise of providing a free VPN. In reality, there is no such animal. Everything costs something, and operators of these free services and proxies are often subsidizing their services by means of ads that greatly reduce the connection speed of users, making it near impossible to use their service for streaming media or unblocking apps like Skype and Netflix. Even worse, some of these services are basically engaged in the business of monitoring themselves by selling the preferences of users to marketing companies.
The bottom line is that VPNs provide a valuable and needed service in today’s world. As long as the demand exists, providers will exist to meet it and the exchange of goods and services is good for the economy. What is good for the economy is good for the US, and politicians that need to be reelected on a regular basis understand this all too well.
Censorship is the hallmark of a repressive government
Another reason the US government is highly unlikely to ever ban the use of VPN services is that censorship is the hallmark of a repressive regime. While there are those that would argue the US has become somewhat repressive where freedom is concerned, consider this: the presence of whistleblowers proves that any attempt to restrict personal freedom is kept covert in the US.
Take a look at Russia. In early 2015, some Russian politicians called for the restriction of services such as TOR, a browser-based proxy that is most famously associated with facilitating access to The Silk Road and other “Darkweb” sites that have been used to conduct illegal activity. The Russian officials also levied their anger against other proxies and VPNs in calling for sweeping legislation that would hamper the provision of these services in Russia.
Roskomnadzor, a state-owned agency that regulates communications and the Internet in Russia, wants more control. Vadim Ampelonskogo, the head of the agency, described TOR as a “den of criminals” and “ghouls, all gathered in one place.” Repressive regimes often use rhetoric like this to justify censorship. While it may sound noble, the action of the Russian government could have ramifications for US policy.
In the US, memories of the Cold War run deep. It is not so very long ago that Russia was considered the very antithesis of everything the US claims to stand for. Even today, tensions still abound between the two countries. As such, any philosophical agreement with Russia regarding censorship of the Internet and VPN services is something that would cause an outcry among US politicians. Quite simply, the US government does not want to be painted with the same strokes as a repressive regime.
The future is bright for VPNs in the US
At their very core, VPNs represent a founding principle of the US government: freedom. The concept of individual liberty is a sacred cow that the US government is reluctant to address in the form of legislation. It is far more likely for the US to conduct their privacy-invading activities behind the scenes in the form of programs like PRISM and by compelling companies such as Google and Verizon to turn over data on their users.
Once again, the irony in this approach is that more people now recognize that using a VPN is the most reliable way to safeguard and secure their Internet activities which feeds the law of supply and demand. Rather than worrying about VPNs being banned by the US, people should invest more time in choosing a trusted provider like VPNaccounts.com and avoid services that retain logs or otherwise facilitate the “behind closed doors” snooping of data that might be occurring in the US.