18 August 2017
Reporter: Barney Dixon

Clear balance needs to be struck for VPNs

A clear balance needs to be struck between enforcement and ethical circumvention when it comes to virtual private networks (VPNs), according to experts on the technology and its uses.

As internet connections become faster and streaming the main means of consuming content, VPNs offer infringers a way to remain anonymous and avoid penalties.

VPNs are a “viable method of committing infringement online” and that VPN providers could do more to help with IP enforcement, according to head of intelligence and operations at Incopro, Helen Saunders.

The technology is primarily used for security and anonymity, for instance, in China, where VPNs are used to overcome the Great Firewall, raising concerns that increased enforcement against them would put these uses in jeopardy.

One VPN provider, NordVPN, argues that, despite the use of VPNs to mask infringement being an issue, “providing a security measure against cyber crime, illicit monitoring and authoritarian governments has a huge positive effect”.

Ruby Gonzalez, head of communications at NordVPN, said the VPN provider can’t force people to be moral or honest and that it wouldn’t give up the safety and anonymity of users in countries such as China, Saudi Arabia or the Philippines, just because there are bad actors using the technology.

“We believe that the right to one’s privacy is a basic human right and we stand for our beliefs. That being said, we don’t support breaking the law in any way. However, if we started tracking our customers, it would defeat the whole purpose of the service.”

Subscribe for free to the next issue of IPPro The Internet, published on 22 August, to read this article in full

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