I’ve been using proxy and VPN services for many years now, in fact my first job in IT was installing and configuring VPN clients on the laptops of a big sales force. However nowadays I mainly use them for privacy and to bypass all the stupid online blocks that seem to exist all over the internet nowadays. It’s extremely frustrating if you travel a lot, as the list of what you can access changes every time you happen to switch countries.
For example my all time favorite web site is probably the BBC one. Not only can I watch live British TV online live, but I can also catch up with different shows through the iPlayer application. However the instant that I step out of the UK none of this works any more, the live TV stuff disappears and iPlayer will not work apart from with a few of the radio channels. It’s the same with my favorite US web sites, Pandora is a wonderful internet radio station, which tailors the music you hear based on your ratings – however outside the USA it simply stops working.
This is the main reason people use proxies and VPNs, to bypass these restrictions – however some countries are even worse and even democracies like Turkey routinely block access to all sorts of different websites. The idea is that for the blocks implemented by countries and governments all they see is the British proxy or US VPN server and so you can access the site that they have blocked. Many people in China routinely use these servers because of the number of sites which are blocked.
The problem is that many of these services are free which of course most people prefer to having to buy IP address services, however people don’t seem to realise that it’s impossible to run these servers without getting some sort of payment. The reality is that most of the free servers inject adverts into either your computer and your browsing sessions, they then make money from clicks to the adverts. This doesn’t raise much which is why these servers are so slow and overloaded, however recently there have been some worrying developments.
A company called Hola which is one the biggest free proxy providers, based in Israel has another method of raising revenue from it’s ‘free users’. What they actually do is use any unused bandwidth on your computer, and resell it as a premium security VPN service. So while your computer sits idle, your internet connection is actually being used by complete strangers to route whatever traffic that they like.
The reality is that for a proxy/vpn service to be safe and secure then you’ll need to pay for it. There’s no other way unless some billionaire decides he’s going to foot the bill for the world’s privacy protection then watch as millions use it to stream soaps and movies to their desktops.