Edward Snowden has become a household name in many countries throughout the world due to his revelations about how the US monitors Internet activity. As Edward Snowden continues to seek asylum from multiple nations, his story is a valuable lesson for anyone thinking about protecting their Internet freedom with a VPN.
The reality of Internet surveillance
Most of us would readily concede that certain countries like China or Saudi Arabia monitor Internet activity. We hear about it all the time in the news. What shocked people the most about the revelations of Edward Snowden was that he was pointing a finger at the United States.
The United States is supposed to be the last outpost of personal freedom in the modern world. It is upheld as a bastion of free speech and expression. Snowden exposed this as a myth by revealing that the NSA regularly collects data from Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter in an effort to monitor Internet traffic and communication.
The reality is that no matter where you live or work your Internet communication is vulnerable to government agencies. We all can agree that this can be useful in matters of national security, but the worrisome part is that governments aren’t making many distinctions when it comes to looking at personal data. They see what they see. Should you really have to worry about everything you post or look at online?
What a VPN can and cannot do
One of the first things you should understand about using a VPN account to protect your Internet privacy is what it can and cannot do. Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA monitors many social sites like Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately, a VPN won’t help you much here.
Whenever you use a personal social network account your data is stored on the network’s server. That means there are many ways to track you down besides your IP address. Facebook tracks the actual device you use. The key thing to understand here is that you may think your Facebook and Twitter usage is secure, but it is not.
Trying to hide criminal activity such as pirating copyrighted material or “torrenting” is something else most VPN’s will not condone. Remember, breaking the law is breaking the law. If it is illegal it doesn’t matter if you break it on or offline.
There are ways, however, that a VPN can help you in the United States. A VPN can hide your real IP address and give you a degree of anonymity when doing searches. Remember, Snowden revealed that the NSA monitors Google also. Some search terms may trigger observation, who knows, but why take the risk? The searches you perform on Google are your personal business, and many people just don’t want the government snooping around in the things they choose to view online.
This isn’t a moral issue. Right and wrong is not for us to decide, and if you are searching things online that you shouldn’t be searching then you are responsible for that. But what if you are a gay man or woman who is searching on coming out of the closet or attempting to locate a gay and lesbian social network? Is it right that the NSA or any government should be able to monitor those searches and tie them to your IP address? Shouldn’t you have the right to decide what is revealed about your personal life? Edward Snowden taught us that everything about your life is fair game in cyberspace.
How law-abiding citizens use a VPN
Another thing we can learn from Edward Snowden is that Internet monitoring doesn’t just get done on criminals. According to Snowden, the NSA monitors law-abiding citizens as well. This brings up an interesting question: how do law-abiding citizens use a VPN? Why do they use one?
Protecting personal data from information thieves is one major reason for using a VPN. Here’s the deal: there are only two types of networks you can really trust when it comes to keeping your data safe. The first is the network you use at home, provided you use the proper safeguards and restrict usage to your household members. The other is a VPN.
Whenever you connect to a public network like the one at your favorite coffee shop, the one provided by the hotel you are staying at, or the one at the library, your data is potentially at risk. Anyone on that network might be able to access your personal information. Would you walk up to a complete stranger and ask them to hold your wallet while you went to the bathroom? Probably not, but this is basically what you are doing when you use an unsecured public network.
A VPN gives law-abiding citizens the power to protect their personal data. In fact, using a VPN is the responsible thing to do. It is just as responsible as locking up your valuables in a safe.
Your right to use a VPN
What is really at issue in the case of Edward Snowden is your personal right to retain a level of anonymity online, a cyberghost. Many people would argue that the intrusion of governments upon the Internet activities of citizens treads upon an individual’s basic liberties, especially in the United States.
Snowden is a powerful reminder that, even in a country where the very Constitution guarantees personal freedom, it is still the responsibility of each individual to exercise their freedom. You have to make the choice to exercise your right to keep your data protected, and a VPN allows you to do that. If you do nothing, then you are potentially at risk and there is no one else to blame when your rights are violated.
The real lesson we can learn from Edward Snowden is that we take our Internet freedom for granted. We assume that governments will always play fair, and he has proven that they do not. Purchasing a VPN account is one way to assume the responsibility for your online safety and take back your Internet freedom.
You can check out Edwards twitter profile here
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