An investigation revealed that the discovery of NSA spying and anti-piracy laws are the reasons most frequently cited among new VPN users when they sign up for an account.
IVPN ran a survey among some of its customers, asking them about their reasons to choose a VPN subscription. According to the findings, demand for VPNs has reportedly increased greatly over the past few months mostly due to anti-piracy laws and NSA leaks. Snowden’s PRISM episode was the biggest catalyst behind the decision.
IVPN conducted the survey among 1,054 new customers, asking them on their motivations during sign up. The result shows that several anti-piracy initiatives such as SOPA, CISPA, ACTA, and the Charter of Snooper formed an important part of mindset for those who use IVPN. PRISM topped the list as the most mentioned reason with 28%, followed by Patriot Act (11%), EU Data Retention Directive (9%), SOPA (8%), CISPA (8%), and ACTA (3%).
“Admittedly, we didn’t cover every privacy-threatening programme out there. But the results were interesting nonetheless. As we mentioned the biggest driver of VPN sign-ups was PRISM, with a 28.08% share of the vote,” said Dennis Kügler of IPVN in a blog post. “This appears to be supported by our own increase in subscriptions. We saw a 56% increase in sign-ups to IVPN during June and July, compared to the previous two months (the PRISM revelations broke on June 6). We also saw a 15.6% increase in unique visitors to the site and a 29.2% increase in page views.”
Kyt Dotson, SiliconAngle assistant editor says this isn’t unexpected, “We’ve seen a strong trend towards privacy online, especially in light that people are becoming more aware that their communication isn’t private on the best of days. It used to be a sense taken-for-granted that companies like Facebook, MySpace, and others could see what we posted–but third parties such as the US government taking that information has opened a lot of eyes. Add in censorship done by countries in the UK against websites and The Pirate Bay and VPNs provide not just privacy but also do the work of the Internet imperative: ‘The Internet views censorship as damage and routes around it.’”
Synonym for anti-piracy laws
The other services protecting privacy on the Internet, such as search engine DuckDuckGo and email service Hushmail have also seen an increase in traffic. As TorrentFreak points out, Ipredator saw a few spikes in their signups, and Private Internet Access also reported demand in their service.
“The PRISM reports are bringing to light the horrendous privacy issues that have existed on the internet. It is clearly the time for cypherpunks to take action,” Andrew Lee of Private Internet Access says.
Derek Spranger of Privacy.io told TorrentFreak that they have noticed an increase in interest when it comes to NSA-type surveillance.
“Based on emails we have received, a lot more people have been referencing the NSA, but a VPN isn’t the solution to get away from PRISM. The issue isn’t data coming from you, but where it lands,” he said. “I know I should be plugging the company, but in relation to this it’s not correct.”
The reference to the anti-piracy initiatives is particularly noteworthy because they were all closed a year ago by the government, in part due to public outcry. However, the fear that these projects could be brought to life in one way or another continues. Other VPN providers also admitted to a spike in enrollment, which can be attributed to the exposure of the NSA spying.
Obviously using a VPN or TOR is not going to stop the NSA from reading your Gmail inbox, so in a technical sense, using a VPN specifically to counter PRISM isn’t going to work. At least the mass media coverage of PRISM appears to be pushing the idea of online surveillance into the public consciousness on a much larger scale than previous controversies, IVPN adds.