All losses to privacy begin with a ‘stick it to the man’ moment. Studios like HBO, AMC and Netflix have all the money they need, right? And you’re just a simple person who wants to watch your show here and now. But the evil corporate overlords have decided to withhold that pleasure from you due to the release date in that country or time zone. Perhaps you are a traveler who wants to watch your shows and decides the regional filters are not to your liking. So you decide to sidestep the pesky limitations by using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. Many popular VPN’s, both commercial and free, allow for the user to choose their region for privacy purposes. For example, you can be sitting in a coffee shop in Istanbul and use an IP address showing that you are located in Albuquerque. This can be useful for those of us who are investigating fraud and need to project an undercover location. Or often, a traveler may use this type of service to mitigate fraud requests while traveling overseas. Say you’re an American tourist in Russia and want to check your US bank account. It sure would make life easier to be able to check your finances without getting flagged for fraud. It sounds good… and it worked for a while… but immoral people messed it up for us.
A VPN is Essential for Privacy
The most important use for a VPN is to protect your privacy. While using one, you are completely impervious to over-the-air hacking through WiFi. This is because, using the OpenVPN protocol, a user can create a hack-proof tunnel that protects all of their data while cruising through the atmosphere. While using a VPN, all data travels within it, thus creating a layer of encrypted protection while it makes its way across the WiFi network your are on. Every security professional in the world will recommend that you always use a VPN while connecting to any public WiFi network. This includes coffee shops, bars, and hotels. If you do not use a VPN, all of the data communicated with the network (passwords, user names, credit card numbers, email/chat content, etc.) will float through the ether with a ‘come-and-steal-me’ Post-it® on its back, just waiting for any half-assed hacker to snatch it.
VPN Blocking as Policy
Because of the massive use of VPNs to bypass regional restrictions, their use on popular streaming services has increased to the point where they have decided to block known VPN IP addresses in order to show their international investors that they are protecting their investment. This means that, in attempts to protect their product from pirates, streaming services are blocking VPN access, which forces all of their customers to share their user names, passwords, credit card information and usage data with anyone who decides to listen. Although this type of blocking is reckless, it is not without reason. When a studio makes a film or television show, it sells its regional rights in order to insure funding. More often than not, it’s not a billionaire making this deal. Often times, it’s an independent film producer trying to garner enough seed money in advance to get their vision funded and in the can. No matter if it’s a rich man or a poor man, they lose. When they lose they need to close the gaps, no matter how reckless that is.
It’s the Morality, Stupid!
Morality cannot be enforced. It’s not possible. If you decide to do business with a company, you agree to their policies. This includes whatever rules, no matter how ridiculous you think they are. A few years ago, I posted on Facebook that I was disappointed that I couldn’t download the latest Ray Davies album because it was released in the UK before the US. Crazily enough, a client of mine (an IP lawyer) offered to buy it for me in attempts to bypass the regional block. I politely thanked her and declined. Ironically, this person now works for the very company she offered to rip off. Life is actually very simple. Abide by the rules to which you agree. Perhaps we can make the world a better place, and maybe make privacy a thing again.
Now, I’m going to finish my coffee.