Whenever you go online, websites collect data about you. They start with who you are and your behavior online. Then, they go on to monitor and fine-tune these variables as accurately as possible. The process begins with your favorite online purchases and can go as deep as to identify purchase methods, what items you are likely to buy, at what times, and from where. The same holds true for content that you view, like, or share. This data is then recorded and, in some instances such as the mediatized Cambridge Analytica, your private information will ultimately be sold for profit.
A good way to maintain your privacy in spite of these common practices is to use a VPN service. However, not all VPNs can be taken at face value. Some of them, such as Hola, claim to offer benefits they do not, which becomes apparent once you fine-comb their privacy statements and experience their services first hand. Taking a second look at who you trust with your private data is mandatory, particularly since you trust them with sensitive information. For an in-depth evaluation, you can read some of the many of Hola VPN reviews out there now.
For a better idea of what a good VPN is, read on.
Where does online identity start?
Protecting your identity online
If you want to browse the web anonymously, there are several things you can do in order to prevent various websites and companies from collecting your data. Cookies are, by far, the most lucrative and widespread method of recording your internet usage. Search engines such as Bing, Yahoo!, and Google take everything they can, so private browsing can go a long way towards protecting yourself from behavior trackers.
The next best thing you can do to protect your anonymity online is to mask your IP address since it is the bridge that connects your online activity back to yourself. Proxy servers can help with masking your IP, but the owners of these servers can still see who is doing what. Particularly in the case of free services, the reason why you have access to a proxy is so that other individuals can see why you might be using it in the first place.
For this reason, VPN services are the go-to solution for online privacy and protection. Banks use them in order to maintain the confidentiality of their records, while political activists employ them to keep people informed about abusive laws and authorities.
In theory, a good VPN not only masks your IP address by re-routing it through a private server before you go online (sometimes through multiples servers), but it also encrypts your Internet traffic so that, even if somebody is eavesdropping, they cannot tell what you are doing online. The process of decryption is so costly and time-consuming that not even state authorities can afford to engage in it.
Check reviews before buying
Technically speaking, services such as the one provided by Hola are proxies, not VPNs. Aside from the lack of security, this re-routing strategy significantly lowers your Internet connection, while also making you culpable for any potentially illegal activities that might be redirected through your PC. From a legal standpoint, this technique does not protect you, but rather makes you an accomplice. For this reason, as well as many more pertinent ones, you should always double and perhaps even triple check services that claim to be free.
Using private browsing features and a proxy will go a long way towards protecting your online identity, but the level of encryption and security associated with a reliable VPN can rarely be matched.