Sometimes, people who want to open a specific page in an office or a room with friends and family go to a corner or try to hide their screen from their peers, if the content is meant to be private for some reason. However, in most cases, they don’t know that although they will have successfully fended off their attempts to take a look into their matters, there are thousands of eyes on the web looking at people’s activity. The act is called Internet surveillance, and you need to avoid it by doing everything in your power because it can be dangerous to your online experience.
Surveillance refers to “close observation” practices. It consists on monitoring the behavior, activities, or other changing information of a particular entity, organization, or a particular person. The act has numerous purposes that can range from influencing, managing, controlling, or directing.
That is why Internet surveillance needs to be avoided. However, every day we see it in so many ways, and the most notorious one is governmental surveillance. In some locations, citizens are pursued and harassed to limit their freedom, and the same situations are evident in the digital world: netizens are subject to monitoring. Authorities want, in those cases, to make sure they aren’t visiting banned websites or sites that go against political, religious, or social “standards.” To be fair, surveillance is not necessarily the same as censorship, but it is a close relative.
There are various types of surveillance:
- Computer surveillance
- Aerial surveillance
- Phone surveillance
- Closed-circuit television
- Social networks analysis
- Corporate surveillance
- Data mining and profiling
- Satellite imagery
- Business intelligence
- Human microchips
For this article, we will focus on online surveillance performed by monitoring people’s computers and phone devices. It is done by spying on data and traffic shared on the Internet.
ISPs: the main culprits
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are the companies that offer online services to people in exchange for a fixed or monthly fee. However, more often than not, they do much more than just giving Internet connectivity to people.
The Internet is a multi-million dollar industry. Even ISPs get a sizable chunk of money by keeping people’s data logs and selling them to the highest bidder. Sometimes it is the government, sometimes it is a hacking group, and most times it sells the users’ patterns and browsing behavior to e-commerce sites and online advertising companies that are continuously looking for data to build profiles of potential customers. They create personalized ads to increase the chances of completing a purchase.
There could also be cases – and there are numerous around the world – in which a specific nation has only one Internet Service Provider, and it is owned and administrated by the government. It often occurs in countries with heavy censorship and diminished online freedom, and the ISP serves as a tool for authorities to control what their people are visiting when they connect to the web.
Take the case of China, for example. The country implements heavy surveillance on their people’s traffic, and use the Great Firewall of China to put in practice extensive regulatory, digital, and physical measures to control what netizens do. Their ISPs can detect the IP address of people, and when they recognize a Chinese IP number trying to access sites like Facebook, Youtube, Gmail, Twitter, Instagram, and many others, access will be denied.
Iran is another evident case of governmental surveillance. The country employs three layers to their content filtering: preventive, interceptive and reactive. The preventive ones are designed to avoid people to visit restricted pages and include URL blacklisting, HTTP host and keyword filtering, DNS redirection, content-control software, and broadband speed limitations. The second layer track users who attempt to circumvent the preventive phase: deep packet inspection, man-in-the-middle methods, and traffic analysis are used; while the third and final actions, the reactive ones, are connection throttling, periodic blocking of SSL, and even jail time and assassination.
Avoid Internet surveillance with a VPN
To avoid Internet surveillance, you need to find a way to hide your traffic and your location. And to do that, the most effective measure you can take is masking your IP address, which is the primary purpose of VPN technology.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are handy resources that allow customers to successfully earn more privacy and security online by implementing a series of protocols to create a virtual tunnel to send and safely receive data. By hiring a VPN, your traffic is shared to remote servers owned or managed by the security company and not those deployed by your ISP.
VPNs help users around the world avoid the dangerous action of hackers, cybercriminals, and malware developers while avoiding Internet surveillance, censorship, and even the logging activity of Internet service providers, e-commerce sites, and online advertisers.
As a bonus, VPN apps help people access restricted sites in specific countries or locations. For example, and as you can imagine Facebook is blocked in Iran and China. If you are in one of those countries and want to enter your account in the social media network, connect to a VPN and choose a server from a nation that allows access to the page. When you go back to Facebook’s site, you will be able to enter with no issues because your IP address will have changed.
There are numerous VPN apps in the industry. Some of them are paid, others are free. Some are worth your time; others aren’t worth anything. However, the best of the bunch is TorGuard.
With top-end encryption (256-bit) and a strict no logging policy, this brand has all you need to avoid Internet surveillance. It also prevents DNS leaks and can deactivate your Internet access in the event of a VPN connection loss via a kill switch.
TorGuard has apps and clients that are compatible with most of the widely known operating systems and devices, such as Windows, Android, Linux, Mac, or iOS. There are multiple VPN protocols to choose from, including the best of the industry, OpenVPN. For those who want to be able to access geo-blocked sites, TorGuard manages a broad network of more than 3,000 servers in 55 nations around the world. The overall package is worth $10 per month, and it includes a fantastic customer support staff with a live chat feature, e-mail communication, and dozens of guides, manuals, and tutorials.
In conclusion, surveillance means that a person or an entity is monitoring your traffic and online behavior. Since you probably don’t like people sniffing your generated content and undermining your privacy rights, make sure to avoid Internet surveillance with a VPN.