What is GDPR and What Do VPNs Have to Do with It?
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation that will come into force in the EU on May 25, 2018. The primary purpose of the regulation is to ensure data protection for people of the EU, and its most important aspect is online privacy.
Despite its importance, most people still don’t know about GDPR, and its implications are not completely clear to the few who’ve heard of it. Like many other Internet users, you might be interested in knowing how companies are going to incorporate the regulation in their privacy policies, so let's dive right into it.
You’ve probably received a few notifications and emails from certain companies requesting you to consent to them collecting your data. However, it is likely that companies will not treat all their customers the same way because companies are only required to obtain consent from one type of user.
Since GDPR is part of EU law, the primary focus of the regulation is to protect users within the EU. Granted, Facebook and some other companies claim that they will provide the privacy protection indiscriminately for its users across the globe, but the reality is that the companies will be unregulated outside the EU, meaning there’s no guarantee for users outside the region that they will receive the same protection.
GDPR is especially important considering recent events surrounding Facebook, which have users concerned about their online privacy. It has recently came to public knowledge that Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting firm that mined, brokered and analyzed data for the purpose of influencing electoral processes, stole private data from over 50 million Facebook users, which was then used to run highly individual political ads targeted at those users and their friends on the social media website.
The revelation was evidence that there are serious security issues in the way Facebook handles the private data of its users, including the fact that it shares the information with third parties. According to online data security experts, even following the implementation of GDPR, Facebook appears to still be pressuring users by using a questionnaire which subtly manipulates users into hurriedly hitting the “Agree” button while being resistant to attempts by a user to make changes.
That notwithstanding, there is no doubt that EU citizens will enjoy more online privacy protection than users in other countries thanks to the implementation of the new regulation.
Benefiting from Online Privacy Protection Akin to GDPR from Outside the EU
It should now be clear that you’re not likely to enjoy the same level of online privacy protection as EU citizens if you’re outside the region. This is the case even if you’re an EU citizen who is temporarily living in a non-EU country or is traveling abroad.
To discriminatorily apply the GDPR regulation to users, companies determine their location using the IP addresses of their devices. Your IP address is established using the network or server that your device uses to connect to the Internet.
The good news is that there’s a solution if you’re wondering how to get GDPR-level privacy from outside of the EU: By using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN enables you to receive and send data online without having to worry about privacy or security.
Ideally, when you route all your online traffic through a tunnel provided by a VPN, no one other than the VPN provider can access your data. Your online activity is thus private, though not necessarily anonymous.
It is important to note that the level of security that a VPN offers is as good as the security level of the weakest point of the entire network. So even the best VPN won’t be of much use to you if your device or network has already been infiltrated by malware or hackers. A powerful antivirus and firewall might be useful in this respect.
You might be justifiably confident that the Internet connection in your home or at your place of work is secure. However, when you step out of these spaces and access the Internet using a public connection such as the one provided at an Internet café, coffee shop or public library without using a GDPR VPN, you leave yourself open to the threat of hackers and malware, who will steal valuable data from you at the first opportunity.
Are Proxies a Good Alternative to VPNs in Terms of Privacy?
When it comes to protecting your online privacy, a proxy is another popular tool that people use. If you’ve heard of proxies, you might be wondering how the technology differs from that of VPNs and how they compare in terms of the level of privacy they deliver. Essentially, the main purpose of proxies and VPNs is to protect the identity of users by disguising their location. However, note that even though the two tools don’t work the same way, a majority of VPN providers also offer proxies as part of their packages.
In simple terms, a proxy is a computer technology that serves as a link between your web-enabled device and the Internet at large. When you browse the Internet using a proxy, the IP address of the proxy server is displayed in the place of your device’s IP address, making it difficult for someone to trace you online.
However, unlike VPNs, proxies don’t offer end-to-end encryption, among other essential security features, which makes them a sub-optimal option for ensuring your privacy online.
Can Free VPNs Offer Adequate Privacy Protection?
Having learned about GDPR and VPNs, you might understandably be tempted to use free VPN services because why spend your hard-earned money when you can get the same value for free, right? Wrong! By using free VPN services, you’re likely compromising the most important value that VPNs offer: privacy and security of your private data.
If you honestly weigh the cost of the best paid VPN services against the GDPR-level of privacy protection that they offer, it’s evident that they are certainly worth the investment. Savvy Internet users and data security experts know to steer clear of free VPNs.
A Final Word from VPNPros
As is the case with any other commercial technology, there’s a sea of companies offering VPN services, and identifying one that affordably caters to your online privacy needs can be a daunting task if you don’t know what to look for.
Thankfully, our experts have reviewed numerous VPN providers and offer recommendations for the most suitable ones depending on your needs. Read our reviews in order to make an informed decision when purchasing VPN services.