You may not know your internet service provider (ISP) and some website owners may sell (in one way or another) your web browsing data to third-parties. You can use VPN (virtual private network) to hide your web activities from your ISP and other data-harvesting companies.
You can also use VPN to bypass censorship and geolocation-based restriction on web services (e.g., video streaming).
This safe surfing guide explains why and when you need to use VPN to surf the web anonymously without restrictions.
Who can see your browsing data (and other internet activity data)?
Whenever you open a website in the browser, many parties can see and monitor what you are doing.
For example, your ISP can see
- Which website you are browsing.
- How long you spend on each webpage.
- The data you submitted to the website (e.g., the form you submitted, the files you uploaded).
- The data you received from the website (e.g., the files you downloaded).
HTTPS can hide the data from ISPs. But the activity will still be logged by ISPs.
Besides the greedy ISPs, the website you access to normally also log your details including IP, identity, browser, hardware (PC, tablet, or mobile) and operating system. Of course, most websites, especially e-commerce sites also log your activities on the website.
On your PC, antivirus software and the browser will also be able to log what you did.
Basically, your web activities are visible to at least three parties:
- Your PC.
- Your ISP (and possibly other ISPs).
- The web server you accessed.
Among these 3 parties, only your PC is under your control. The other two parties can do whatever they like with your private browsing data and activities.
Notoriously, some ISPs (who “team up” with internet traffic analysis companies) may dig your private browsing data and sell them to advertising and marketing companies.
So, it is important to protect your private browsing from these giant predators.
The answer is to use VPN to surf the web anonymously without restrictions.
What is VPN? Why can VPN protect your browsing and other web activity data?
VPN (virtual private network) was previously designed for enterprise users who need to remotely access company data saved and protected inside of the enterprise network.
You can imagine a VPN is a secure tunnel between your PC and the VPN server. Your local ISP and other ISPs can not poke their heads behind you. The data transferred from your PC to the VPN server are encrypted. So ISPs have no way to know what they are.
Later, some people find they can use VPN to hide their private browsing data from ISPs and hide their identity from web servers. For the web server, you can fetch contents from the VPN server, instead of from your PC.
You can use VPN to surf the web anonymously without restrictions by:
- Hide your private browsing data and web activities from ISPs.
- Hide your identity from the web server you visited.
- Visit the blocked sites (bypass the censorship).
- Bypass the geolocation-based blockage imposed by some web service providers. For example, most video streaming service providers, e.g., Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, all block the access to some titles based on your region/country.
When using VPN, you visit websites, download/upload files, streaming videos and music through a VPN server. This means:
- For ISPs, it can only see you are connected to the VPN server. That’s all.
- For the website or web services that you access, you are accessing them from the VPN server, instead of from your PC.
When do you need to use VPN?
You may consider using VPN when:
- You do not want to let your ISP know what you are doing.
- You do not want to be identified by the website you visited.
- You want to visit a website blocked by your ISP.
- You want to stream movies that are not available for your current region/location. For example, you may want to watch some movies or TV shows when abroad.
In short, you can use VPN:
- To protect your private browsing and other web activity data.
- To hide your identity (and keep anonymous) on the Internet.
- To bypass the censorship.
- To bypass the geolocation-based blockage.
- To remotely access the resources secured in your own private network if you run your own VPN servers.
It is obvious, VPN is superior to web proxy we used to offer on this site.
How to create your own VPN server?
You need a VPN server to use VPN.
The good news is you can build your own VPN server. You can rent a dedicated server or a virtual private server, or a virtual machine to run your own VPN services.
You may refer to this guide on creating your own VPN server.
How to choose a VPN provider?
If you do not have enough time to deal with own VPN servers, there are many VPN providers waiting for your business.
Not all VPN providers were created equally. Some are good; some are excellent; some are bad, and some are nightmares.
Please refer to this guide (coming soon) on how to choose a VPN provider based on your needs and budget.
What are the limitations of VPN?
Before moving to VPN, you need to know the limitations of VPN:
- The connection speed usually will be slower. You should test it by yourself. Most VPN providers offer a free-trial period up to 14 days.
- The data collection policy in the VPN servers varies. Luckily, more and more VPN providers do not collect the usage data. But do not assume.
- In some regions, using VPN may be illegal.
- Some companies may block external VPN connections.
If your main objective is to bypass geolocation restriction of video streaming, DNS proxy is usually a better option. Your connection will not be slowed down when using DNS proxy as explained in this guide.
Do you know whether you should use VPN to surf the web anonymously without restrictions? Do you understand the benefits and limitations of using VPN?
If you have any questions on using VPN to protect your private browsing data, to hide your identity, or to bypass geolocation-based blockage, you may let us know in the comment box below.
We will try to help you.
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