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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Internet Privacy Law Causing Increase in VPN Subscribers

We covered and closely followed the so-called “joint resolution” law that stripped American citizens of a previously established Internet privacy rule; The US Senate, at the time, voted to overrule orders from the FCC last year. The bill passed. To the dissatisfaction of many, the House too passed S.J.Res.34. The President signed the bill and internet users, even those who cared little for online privacy, worried about legal Internet surveillance. Shortly after, VPN companies announced record levels of new subscribers.

The International Business Times spoke with several of the largest VPN providers about the increased influx of customers and received noteworthy responses. For instance, ExpressVPN, a British Virgin Islands-based company, reported the greatest spike of all. A spokesperson wrote that since the bill became a law, the company noticed a 109 percent spike in Internet traffic from customers located in the United States. In addition to the massive traffic spike, they saw a 97 percent spike in sales.

A spokesperson for ExpressVPN wrote that “It’s very scary to think about the power ISPs have to track, record, and even sell information related to what you do online if you’re not using a VPN.“

The bill’s backers introduced the bill to the Senate as the “Joint Resolution Providing for Congressional Disapproval […] of the Federal Communications Commission rule relating to “’Protecting the Privacy of Customers of Broadband and Other Telecommunications Services.’” And the FCC’s rule that the backers referred to, among a host of other privacy oriented regulations, required “telecom carriers to inform customers about rights to opt in or opt out of the use or the sharing of their confidential information.” Of course, the rules restricted Internet Service Providers—and was the main reason for the proposed Congressional Disapproval.

VPN companies both struck gold with respect to an increased need for VPN services and inherently became a sought after service—a near necessity, even by standards of the mainstream media.

Private Internet Access, for example, bought advertising space in the New York Times before the bill even became law. They urged readers to call their local representatives and ask him or her to vote no to the bill affecting Broadband Consumer Privacy Rules. Naturally, Private Internet Access gained a significant amount of publicity from the advertisements which resulted in a 50–100 percent increase in new customers. More customers since the FCC’s former rules received a gutting, that is.

VPN unlimited, a New York-based VPN company announced a 32 percent increase in total sales. They also noticed a “49 percent increase in downloads,” according to IBT.

VPN services, unfortunately, often lack some of the key features that a VPN service is supposed to provide. Some store use logs that the government can subpoena, some lack good data—sometimes you lack your own—and sometimes the VPN is a ripoff. The VPN companies vocally backing the new law are likely good choices, but when your Internet Service Provider can watch and sell subscriber data, choosing a good VPN can make all the difference in the world.

More people turn to Tor and Signal every day and while both come highly recommended by many security researchers, an ISP can still watch Tor activity. A VPN—and only a good one, configured well—has become a necessity.

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