The internet is simply a series of computers connected through wires. The computers are owned by everyone—you, me, companies, and governments. When I access a website, my computer routes a signal through my Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) tubes to the website’s computer. Naturally, the middleman keeps a log of all the traffic that goes through their property. And naturally, the middleman is always looking for new opportunities to grow richer. In a capitalistic economy, can you fault the middleman? The question is: why did we not think this was inevitable?
VPNs are absolutely a solution to policy issues, and we would be wrong to treat them differently. How much longer will we continue to be at the mercy of a rotating government for our protections? The truth is, middlemen will never go away, and no matter the protections in place, we will always be one policy—one capricious signature—away from all our protections disappearing, and our data leaking.
If you agree to use someone’s service, it is between you and them to reach an agreement regarding the confidentiality of the arrangement. If you can’t reach an agreement, simply don’t use the service. In this case, because of legal monopolies on internet providers, we don’t have the luxury of choice. Monopolies are the real enemy, and this is an example of just how dangerous they can be. Companies selling your data is nothing new—Facebook and Google have been doing it for decades.
And it’s so damn lucrative that ISPs are crying, No fair! I want a piece of that too! Are they not entitled to pursue such an opportunity? They’d be foolish not to. Other than relying on the unpredictability of governments to solve all our problems, we can look to two long-lasting solutions to this particular problem:
- Fight monopolies. Because even if you defeat this one piece of legislation, ISPs will still remain a monopoly, and their power will grow by day. Choice in ISPs would have easily solved this problem.
- Devalue your data completely. Use VPNs. Use ad blockers. You own the computer from which all your valuable data is generated. Ultimately, whatever data that is valuable to these ravenous corporations is created first and foremost with your hands, using your keyboard, on your computer. No one can ever take that away from you (let’s hope). Stop making your data so damn valuable and start protecting yourself. Use a VPN. Use apps that encrypt. Only access websites through HTTPS. Use ad blockers. Never click on an ad. Don’t use sites that force you to disable your ad blocker, no matter the cost.
Other articles have argued that VPNs are not a solution to a policy problem, because you can’t necessarily trust a VPN provider, or some VPN providers don’t encrypt your data properly. That may be the case, but that’s an easily solvable problem. And there are no monopolies on VPNs. This is something that a market economy can solve in a year.
Stop making your data so valuable, and stop relying on governments for self-protection that you can handle yourself. If it’s not the current administration that will repeal our protections, it will be the next one. And what then?
The best form of protection is better data habits. Let us begin forming them, starting today.