When it comes to your privacy, internet service providers and VPN companies have wildly opposing priorities. Understanding these differences is critical to protecting yourself, as governments around the world are increasingly caving to ISPs’ demands to place their profit over your privacy.
Your ISP knows your data is valuable
One of the most valuable assets that you have as an internet user is your data. Every website visit, app download, map request, and purchase online paints a picture of who you are.
All this information can be collated and used to fingerprint you—your online data can indicate your motivations, behaviors, movements, and even moods. Scarily, your entire digital life can be stored, analyzed, sold, or used against you. Online data is a great source of information for marketing agencies, salespeople, and even governments and criminal organizations.
ISPs wield an enormous amount of power over you and your data. But are they compelled to keep it to themselves? The answer is, generally, no.
ISPs won’t promise not to sell your data
In 2017, the Electronic Frontier Foundation launched a Who Has Your Back campaign to see how companies responded to requests for (or threats against) a customer’s personal information.
Notably, the U.S. ISPs on the list (AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile, and Verizon) easily performed the worst. None of those listed tell their customers about government data requests or promise not to sell out their users.
Regrettably, President Trump made the situation in the U.S. even worse in 2017 when he signed on the dotted line to allow ISPs to sell your data.
Unlike ISPs, VPNs are in the business of protecting your data
It’s your VPN provider’s sole purpose to keep all your data private, and violating that privacy would destroy its reputation. If a VPN gets stung by a request for information from the authorities and it’s been keeping logs, then it’s game over for the company and its brand.
However, ISPs’ sole purpose is to connect you to the web. So they get a request for information or want to sell it for profit? Hey, they’re still providing you internet, your privacy isn’t their problem.
While an ISP has other agendas, it’s in a VPN provider’s best interest to shield your internet traffic from your ISP, governments, or any other people or organizations.
- Have no activity or connection logs
- Be transparent about how its operating jurisdiction affects your privacy
- Have strong encryption to protect your data
- Offer great customer support
Caution: Be wary of free VPNs
Be careful if you choose a free VPN provider (or one that offers a lifetime subscription).
How many people are in the business of giving you something for nothing? Not many. Free VPNs want to turn a profit, and they have to do it somehow. Is it through ads? Or is it by something more nefarious, like selling your data to the highest bidder?
To avoid this potential trap, look instead for a paid provider, ideally one that offers a free-trial period or a money-back guarantee.
You can trust a premium VPN to keep your data private
When you have a VPN, you can kick back, relax, and get back to enjoying the internet securely.
Netflix and chill or looking at cats—whatever the internet is drawing you toward today, a VPN is on your side, keeping your data safe.