Will VPNs challenge state surveillance?

Some customers are bypassing action by their ISP to block troublesome protocols, such as P2P, by subscribing to foreign VPN (Virtual Private Network) services.  Others are routing their internet traffic via a free VPN, using the advertising-supported Hotspot Shield – software designed to protect users of low-security free wifi connections. The software provides users with a VPN link into the USA.

VPNs are primarily used by companies to allow secure communications between home or mobile workers and the company servers. They encrypt and pass traffic securely over the open internet. If the end point is not a company server but an internet access point in a foreign country, people can tunnel their internet traffic past ISP and national monitoring equipment, which only records that the customer connected to the VPN server. This is likely to be a major challenge to UK government plans to log the times, dates and addresses of the websites people visit, as well as the addresses, times and dates of emails they send.

According to a survey on the industry website computing.co.uk, 78% believe “the surveillance state is getting out of control”. The increasing popularity of foreign VPNs seems to suggest many may be putting their money where their mouths are.