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In 2011, security researcher Trevor Eckhart discovered that AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all sold smartphones with preinstalled tracking software. Carrier IQ could track everything from the websites customers visited to Google search terms–ostensibly for troubleshooting purposes, not advertising.

 

An FCC investigation later caught Verizon secretly bundling phones with its own tracking files known colloquially as “zombie cookies.” The carriers eventually killed off these programs. But if not for the work of dedicated researchers, customers would never have known they existed in the first place. That’s why laws requiring that internet providers seek explicit, opt-in permission before selling data are important.

 

Virtually Private

Many security experts recommend that you use what’s called a virtual private network, or VPN for short, to protect your privacy. In effect, VPNs route all your traffic through their service. Instead of your internet provider having a list of websites you’ve visited, you’ll only ever appear to connect to one particular server.

 

While VPNs are an important privacy tool, they have limitations. The most obvious: You need to trust your VPN provider not to track you and sell your data itself.

 

While using a VPN, you might find that you can’t connect to all the sites and services you’re used to using. Netflix, for example, tries to block all VPNs to prevent people from accessing content not licensed in their home countries. Others sites may block particular VPN providers used by malicious hackers or criminals to cover their tracks. It can be hard to tell if you can’t access a particular site because you’ve misconfigured your VPN software, the site is down, or if a company has blocked your VPN provider from accessing a site.

 

Privacy tech doesn’t take the place of having the law on your side.

Tor, privacy advocates’ favorite browsing software, tries to anonymize your internet use by routing your traffic through multiple servers around the world. It’s free and, since it’s an open source project tied to no company, at least partially solves the trust problem. But it’s more complex to set up, typically slows down your connection speeds, and malicious Tor servers do exist. Many sites and services also block Tor. Regardless, neither VPNs nor Tor would protect you from software like Carrier IQ that tracks what you do locally.

 

Don’t get us wrong: VPNs are a good way to protect your data, especially on public Wi-Fi networks. And it’s important to pay attention to the fine print of your internet contract to find out how your data might be used, regardless of what laws are in place.

 

 

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» I am not an AirVPN team member. All opinions are my own and are not to be considered official. Only the AirVPN Staff account should be viewed as such.

» The forums is a place where you can ask questions to the community. You are not entitled to guaranteed answer times. Answer quality may vary, too. If you need professional support, please create tickets.

» If you're new, take some time to read LZ1's New User Guide to AirVPN. On questions, use the search function first. On errors, search for the error message instead.

» If you choose to create a new thread, keep in mind that we don't know your setup. Give info about it. Never forget the OpenVPN logs or, for Eddie, the support file (Logs > lifebelt icon).

» The community kindly asks you to not set up Tor exit relays when connected to AirVPN. Their IP addresses are subject to restrictions and these are relayed to all users of the affected servers.

 

» Furthermore, I propose that your paranoia is to be destroyed. If you overdo privacy, chances are you will be unique amond the mass again.

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