Whether you have accepted it or not, Internet censorship and surveillance are becoming more and more common these days.
Even if you feel like you are an open book with nothing much to hide, you may be surprised to realize that the most basic personal information, when exposed, can compromise your safety and your fundamental rights to privacy.
If you want to protect your privacy and personal data and ensure that your freedoms remain intact, there are some very simple steps you can take to safeguard your information on a day-to-day basis online.
In this article, we will give you a quick overview of some foolproof ways to avoid this surveillance in 2022.
What Is Internet Surveillance?
So, what is Internet surveillance in the first place?
Internet surveillance refers to the act of monitoring users' activity online, hard drive data, or information that may be transferred on the web.
This act can be at the hands of ISPs, governments, hackers, social media sites (like Facebook), or even "trusted" search engines like Google.
Because companies are forced to hand over sometimes huge amounts of data to organizations like the NSA with no say in the matter, you can assume that your go-to Facebook or Google, since they are legally required, are likely sharing your data.
Surveillance may often be excused as being necessary for alleged national security reasons like to prevent terrorist acts, but often, your data is collected for financial profit instead of to protect you.
How Are Governments Spying On You?
After you understand what Internet surveillance is, it is important to know how government agencies (like the NSA) are able to spy on Internet users.
For starters, here are the most commonly-known government surveillance agencies around the globe:
- The ASD (Australian Signals Directorate)
- The GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters of the UK that provides signals intelligence to the government)
- The FSB (Federal Security Service of Russia)
- The GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau of New Zealand
- The NSA (National Security Agency of the USA)
In order to access Internet users' sensitive information, governments worldwide tend to use major tech companies as conduits.
Even if these companies want to protect your privacy, they often have no choice in the matter, since they can be forced to cave to the demands of powerful government agencies.
Often demands by intelligence agencies will require companies to build back doors that can be taken advantage of by surveillance agencies, like the NSA.
This is the reason why social media platforms (like Facebook) are often forced to comply with these government agencies.
Now, keep reading to find out other situations in which your Internet privacy may be compromised.
How Are Hackers Spying On You?
In addition to governments, your online activities are also exposed to hackers.
Some of the ways in which hackers can get their hands on your online activity are:
- Spam: Spam mail can be a big threat to online users since it may contain links or files infected with malware.
- Phishing: If you wind up on a phishing site, you may think that you are on an ordinary site, and be prompted to enter private information like your payment details, social security number, or more sensitive information. This data collected can then be used to take advantage of you.
Vulnerabilities in your Apps: Hackers know how to use any app vulnerabilities against you, which can expose you to online data leaks.
The scary truth is that in this day and age, any computer-savvy online users can find ways to monitor your online behavior and exploit you.
Cyber-criminals and organizations can get access to your mobile phone, computer, web-cam, passports, files, account information, files, and more. They do this by using the above methods as well as viruses, spyware, and malicious code, and they are ready to pounce any time you are on an unsecured network.
How Are Your Internet Service Providers Spying On You?
Your ISPs are also culprits, spying on your browsing habits as well as any unencrypted online traffic.
Through the IP address assigned to you by your Internet Service Provider, all your online traffic can be intercepted. This data can then be passed on to Internet surveillance agencies if requested.
On top of this, many ISPs are infamous for selling your data to third parties for targeted advertising to make a profit. They may also use your activity against you, throttling your bandwidth if you are using a lot of data online through streaming or other activities.
How Are Search Engines Spying On You?
Search engines are also culprits, collecting your private information whenever you enter a search.
In fact, the most popular search engines, including companies like Google, Yahoo, or Bing, store your private info like your:
- Email address
- Account info
- Telephone number
- Search habits
- Health issues
- And more
So, yes. even Google tracks you and stores your data, compromising your online privacy to sell your data to marketing agencies for targeted ads.
The most shocking thing you may learn from this article is that many of these breaches in online privacy are completely legal.
How Are Websites Spying On Your Internet Traffic?
If companies get their hands on your private data, this is a sure path to success for them, and it is pretty easy for them to access enormous amounts of your data.
Whenever you go online, a digital footprint is left behind. This trail can pinpoint your location, search engine entries, and other private information.
To track you, the most common tactic is to use Internet cookies.
These inedible cookies are tiny files that are left on your devices when you are on any website. Typically, a website has to ask your permission to track you with cookies, but many people agree to this without even realizing it.
Aside from Internet surveillance, cookies can also help users in many ways, like helping "remember" what items are left in a shopping cart, or ensuring that you are seeing content that is pertinent to you.
This data that is collected can also be used for targeted ads set up by online advertisers.
Ways to Avoid Online Surveillance
If you are trying to avoid Internet surveillance, here are some of the most effective tools and approaches to use:
Use a VPN
Our favorite way to avoid Internet surveillance is to use a virtual private network (VPN).
A VPN uses powerful encryption protocols to protect your online privacy on any website you access.
The top VPNs conceal your IP address so that customers' locations and activities are kept private, and they do not keep any activity or server logs to pass on to governments.
When your traffic is sent through an encrypted VPN server, this prevents you from being monitored since your activity is indecipherable.
Since there are too many VPNs on the market to count, we urge you to try out our go-to VPN, SwitchVPN, when you are looking to enhance your security and privacy on the web.
TOR is open-source online software that can help protect your data by sending it through a free relay network.
The problem with this is that when the data gets to the end of its relay, the last stop can read your data since the data is then decrypted.
Use Encrypted Messaging
If you want to ensure that your personal conversations remain private when you are using a messaging service, make sure to use one of the messaging apps that offer end-to-end encryption, like Signal, for example.
Use HTTPS Websites Only
HTTPS (Hypertext Protocol Secure) is a protocol used for transferring code from your server to your device. This protocol replaced the original HTTP, as this is a better way to protect your online privacy.
When possible, avoid HTTP sites, since these do not encrypt your Internet traffic, making it too easy for any criminal organizations to get their hands on your personal info.
You can easily tell which sites use HTTPS due to the added "S."
How to Avoid Internet Surveillance with SwitchVPN
An example of a hugely effective VPN for avoiding surveillance by governments or other entities is SwitchVPN.
When you are setting out to avoid Internet surveillance by using a VPN, here are the simple steps to follow:
- Choose a reputable VPN service, like SwitchVPN.
- Choose the VPN plan that best suits your needs. The most affordable SwitchVPN plan is the Premium yearly plan which costs only $3.99/month.
- Download the VPN client and install it on your chosen device. SwitchVPN is compatible with your Android, iOS, Mac, or Windows device.
- Open the VPN app and connect to a server in one of the countries around the globe. SwitchVPN has more than 250 servers spread across more than 43 worldwide locations.
- Access Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Facebook, Google, government sites, or really any online website while you avoid surveillance and protect your data.
Internet Surveillance: Conclusion
Whether you are using your computer, mobile device, or any other device, surveillance is a very serious reality, and sometimes a very serious threat.
The best way to avoid this all-too-common surveillance and to protect your privacy, whether you are on social media or dealing with companies like Google, is to use a VPN.
You can try SwitchVPN for 30 days with a refund guarantee, so you have nothing to lose by giving it a whirl today.