Yesterday, while watching television in my hotel in Breukelen, in the Netherlands, where I am participating in a Machine Learning Summer School organized by BigML, I came across an advertisement for a VPN, specifically NordVPN.
The ad caught my attention: I’ve been writing about VPNs for years and trying to convince my students and anybody else who’ll listen about the benefits of using them: given that I was in a hotel, I was using one when I saw the advertisement. Looking for some more information, I found that this particular provider, NordVPN, has been advertising on television for quite some time — here are a few of their spots, some of which are well-known in the United States, something I was unaware of, but which suggest that virtual private networks are about to experience mass adoption.
My usual source about which VPN to buy — if you want a reasonable level of privacy and an infrastructure of nodes in different countries of the world, it’s worth paying money — is TorrentFreak, which has been rating different providers with a highly detailed questionnaire for many years. My choice over recent years has been ExpressVPN, but in fact, there are many reasonably priced options out there, and although VPNs slow down your connection speed, the security advantages are very important, especially if you connect from unsecured WiFi networks in hotels. VPN is a complicated sector, they are (theoretically) forbidden in China or Russia, so many providers try to maintain their anonymity or locate in small countries to avoid government information requests about their users, which is why I was surprised to see an advertisement for a VPN provider on television.
There has been speculation that the turning point for the popularization of VPNs will come when Apple, which is increasingly focused on marketing privacy as a service, sets up its own VPN for its users. An Apple VPN, with guarantees of anonymity and a policy of not storing logs — the first thing I ask a VPN provider — would be a breakthrough for a safer Internet, and according to some analysts , we may get to see it.
Using a VPN is one of the safest and most recommendable ways to protect your information, especially when you connect in places where you have no control over security.
The question now is whether the decision by one of the main players in the VPN market to advertise on television really means we could be moving toward the mass adoption of this easy-to-use method to improve our online privacy.
(En español, aquí)