VPNs in 2019 — a Privacy Paradox

Beam Privacy
Jun 5 · 5 min read

1 in 4 people in the world used a VPN in 2018. Motivations vary but in general people using a VPN try to overcome censorship and to fight to see their Privacy respected. In this story, we will try to build a genealogy of this privacy-enhancement technology, we will present a picture of how VPN use has emerged over time, and we will expose a privacy paradox caused by the use of a non-private means of payment when acquiring a privacy-centric service.

VPN — Once upon a time…

In 1996, a couple of years after the Civilian Internet Advent, Gurdeep Singh-Pall, from Microsoft, has invented PPTP (or Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol), a system for implementing virtual private networks.

For Singh-Pall, it was all about allowing users to secure their Internet connection and work efficiently and securely. This is how VPNs were created.

VPN Tech over the years

Since then, many types of VPN technology have arisen.

Nowadays, you can count several types of VPNs with distinct protocols (L2TP/IPsec, OpenVPN, PPTP, SSTP) together with different kinds of encryption employed to protect users (hashing, symmetric, asymmetric).

Today, encryption still is evolving and improving since more and more individuals and companies turn to privacy technology to ensure Privacy and security. According to GlobalWebIndex, 30% of Internet users used a VPN in 2018. Regionally, however, usage is considerably higher in Asia and Latin American countries than in Europe and North America.

For example, in Asian countries, 30% of internet users and 35% of users aged 16 to 34 use VPNs daily. The top 10 VPN markets in the world cover Indonesia and India at 44% and 37%, Malaysia at 32%, and both Vietnam and the Philippines at 25%.

Today, VPNs are used to resist censorship, government surveillance, enhance online security, and much more. As government and corporate control on our digital identities continue to rise, it is relevant to identify the tools available to protect ourselves and to understand how they can best protect our Privacy.

Daily news is full of scandals and controversies when it comes to Privacy and digital security, although some public legal initiatives are popping up from time to time coming mainly from Europe and the US to legislate about Privacy. But, Privacy and Online security shall be considered by all Internet users as an individual concern.

VPN — Fighting Censorship

You probably heard about a friend extolling the merits of a specific VPN to access Netflix US-Based catalog of movies and TV shows, but in general and in some regions of the world, VPN tech is used daily to fight political censorship and to defend free access to the Internet.

This is true for several countries in the world which forbid free press and in general free access to online social networks.

Iranian people, for example, can’t access most international news sources and many useful websites together with video content and most of the western social networks. In Iran in 2019, using a VPN is not an option but a necessity.

In China, along with the fight against censorship, Chinese people will have to use a VPN if they want to access Google Services such as Gmail, Youtube or Google Search Engine but also to access teamwork software like Slack and to access instant messaging apps like Telegram, Whatsapp or Messenger.

In China in 2019, if you are willing to chat with your American friend, then you will encounter some severe difficulties.

Not all VPNs are ‘Kosher’

We are not living — yet — in Alice’s wonderland. It means before choosing a VPN, users should conduct their own research since some VPNs are keeping logs. In another word, some VPNs are built in a very certain way to spy on people’s digital use for several purposes like explained earlier.

VPNs, a Privacy Paradox

Purchasing a VPN service using Fiat money and/or non-private crypto jeopardizes the buyer and creates a kind of paradox. Privacy is not a destination but a journey. Therefore using a non-private method of payment to acquire privacy-tech services doesn’t seem adequate and in a certain way, cancels the very underlying meaning of this journey. If we might use a comparison, or even if we risk the metaphor, using crypto or a digital Fiat to buy a VPN service, could be assimilated to treating an overweight by drinking a medication melted with a soda full of sugar. The expected effect is altered. This is precisely the same case when it comes to acquiring a VPN service using a non-private means of payment.

Use Beam to buy VPN Services

Privacy-centric cryptocurrency Beam has recently been added as a payment method on several mainstream VPN Services. Using this unique privacy coin guarantees full confidentiality for the buyer in his/her try to protect daily his/her digital Privacy.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of VPN Services which accepts Beam as a payment method:

Using a VPN in 2019 is not a question for the ones trying to avoid censorship and the ones trying to guarantee a private way of using digital tools. Using Beam in 2019 to acquire any privacy-centric service is part of the same principle and should be adopted by all privacy advocates and seekers.

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Discover BEAM, a Mimblewimble Implementation focused on privacy, scalability and optin auditability.