In March of this year, Congress voted to gut proposed internet privacy rules, set out by the outgoing Obama administration, that would have prevented internet providers from selling your browser history to advertisers. A month later, President Donald Trump signed the bill, making it law. So, how do we prevent access to our personal data? Enter the Virtual Private Network (VPN).

A VPN is a service that allows you to access the web safely and privately by routing your connection through a server that encrypts your data. Essentially, good VPNs are supposed to push your internet traffic through a secure, protected tunnel. This way, your internet provider won’t be able to peak at your browsing records. On the downside, VPNs almost always reduce internet speeds. Although they’re supposed to keep your online information shielded, VPNs are still tied to internet service providers, so they could technically share or sell your info to the service provider(s) you seek protection from.

At the end of the day, VPNs are only part of the solution. Keeping your online activities hidden from your service provider won’t stop companies like Google or Facebook from identifying your activities from site to site in other ways, but using a VPN in certain situations definitely has its benefits and can aid with overall security. The best advice regarding VPNs would be to use them when it seems necessary, and turn them off when you don’t need them.

You should consider using a VPN to protect your online data from third party intruders:

  • When connected to public wifi
  • When looking at sensitive websites

You might not want to use VPNs for:

  • Streaming services like Netflix or Hulu. In order to access content that may be blocked in certain in