This past week we’ve seen a flurry of media coverage related to privacy in electronic communications. It started with reports that Verizon, a US telecom provider, furnishes the National Security Agency (NSA) with ongoing access to all phone records. The next day we learned of Prism, a top secret surveillance system used for monitoring emails, chats, documents and photos. More surprising was the suggested level of complicity from leading technology companies like Google, Facebook, Skype and Apple.
While it feels like an “I told you so” moment for privacy hawks, we doubt that anyone is celebrating this revelation. At ExpressVPN we are troubled by the far-reaching nature of the spy program and its implications for society as a whole. Forget about “unconstitutional”… it’s the whole world that is being watched, and the last time we checked the US Constitution does not apply to Canada, Australia, or the UK.
Yes, ExpressVPN is a powerful tool for anonymizing your IP address and hiding your online activities from your ISP. But is it powerful enough? For example, a VPN service cannot protect the privacy of your email account if the NSA has a backdoor to all data on Gmail servers.
A classified US government slide presentation released by The Guardian distinguishes between two types of data collection. The first type is a series of four different programs that involve collection from “fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past”. Prism, the second method used, involves data directly accumulated from servers of leading technology companies. While a VPN may be ineffective in fighting Prism, it can act as an important tool in combating the first type of data collection. ExpressVPN uses powerful encryption to scramble 100% of the Internet traffic between your location and our VPN servers.
While ExpressVPN goes a long way towards protecting the privacy and anonymity of our users, it is only one part of the equation. The events of last week show that a great deal of vigilance is required. Use common sense before sending off an email that could be damaging if uncovered. Or consider using an encrypted email program that can only be read by an end user possessing a private key. And as a citizen of the world, take action against government abuses! The Electronic Frontier Foundation does some great work in this area.
Thomas Jefferson puts it best: “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.”