The privacy picture in the US is seemingly growing worse. For some American’s, the news is too much and are now seeking out privacy options.
Last week, we wrote a roundup of the fast-paced news on Donald Trumps privacy rollback. The move repealed privacy protections put in place by the previous president. The laws would have stopped ISPs from selling their users browsing histories to third parties.
The question of how American’s would react naturally came up. Would American’s simply not care about their privacy and just continue to browse the web without any form of protection? Would the effort needed to seek out solutions be too much for American’s to bother with? It turns out, for some at least, they aren’t waiting around to have their browsing habits sold.
According to the IBTimes, VPN providers are reporting major spikes in new subscribers. From the report:
When asked by International Business Times, several popular VPN providers reported a more than 50 percent increase in downloads of their services since the repeal of the Broadband Consumer Privacy Rules, as Americans have sought out options to help keep private their activity online.
The British Virgin Islands-based company reported the most significant increase in interest since the repeal. According to the spokesperson, ExpressVPN has experienced a 105 percent increase in traffic from the U.S. and a 97 percent spike in sales.
Those ads generated attention for the VPN, as well, which—according to Private Internet Access parent company London Trust Media—has seen between a 50 to 100 percent increase in new sign ups since the repeal of consumer protections.
KeepSolid, the New York-based company behind VPNUnlimited, noted a 32 percent increase in purchases and growth of 49 percent in total downloads. The company also reports having a considerable amount of increased engagement via social media regarding user privacy.
Hong Kong-based VPN provider PureVPN said it experienced a 40 percent jump in traffic from the U.S. in the weeks following the rollback of the internet privacy rules, along with a 21 percent increase in downloads—with drastic spikes coming from New York, Chicago, California, Texas and Washington— and a 53 percent increase in chat queries about the service.
If anything came be made of this trend, it’s that there is anxiety in the American public about the privacy rollback. With such a surge in traffic and demand, the news is very likely good for those who sell such services in the first place.
While it is bad news for the American public, it may also be bad news for American spy agencies. If an agency is trying to target an actual threat, having VPN service usage becoming more commonplace might become a headache. In some investigations that involve a VPN, such organizations may find themselves having to reach out to the VPN provider. While that may sound like little more than an additional step on the surface, it can be a gamble whether the VPN service would be receptive to a request for log information.
Some providers do operate inside the US. As such, they are bound by US laws. This can make things easier for such spy agencies. Other VPN providers, however, operate outside of the US jurisdiction. Legally, that can very easily add an additional layer of complexity. Some VPN providers don’t keep logs in the first place. So, that is a potential dead end right there. Other VPN services may refuse to co-operate and operate in a jurisdiction that is less than friendly with the US government.
From a digital rights perspective, it is a positive thing that the Trump Administration’s move has increased awareness about personal privacy online. The thought of having your personal browsing history being passed around like currency certainly gives people motivation to think twice before browsing the wide open Internet without any privacy safeguards. Of course, that may be one of the few silver linings in all of this.
As some have already noted, there are ISPs that do offer an opt-out option for tracking. Some may require sitting on the phone with customer service, but this is also an option.
What will be interesting to see is whether this rush to VPN services will last. Will American’s stick with VPN services for the long haul or is this a temporary rush? In addition to this, what will Trumps next moves in the realm of personal privacy be? If there’s anything we’ve learned about the Trump presidency so far, its expecting the unexpected.