How To Protect Your Digital Privacy in The UK

A 2015 comprehensive study by Ofcom—a UK regulatory authority for the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries—suggested there was a growing concern among web and app users about the privacy of their personal data.

The report noted that in comparison to 2013 where only 2 in 10 people were concerned about security, fraud, and privacy; 3 in 10 app users now worried about what the respective organizations were doing with their data.

Additionally, there was a growing caution regarding the sharing of personal information online. In a bid to maintain privacy, the majority of Britons were reluctant to share sensitive information such as phone numbers or home address.

Fast forward to 2018, and privacy is still a growing issue. Just recently, the EU effected a European Privacy Law that restricts how data is collected and handled in a bid to shift power to the consumer. However, long before the European Privacy Law was conceived, the UK parliament passed the Investigatory Powers Act.

What Is the Investigatory Powers Act?

Nicknamed the snoopers charter, the Investigatory Powers Act is a law aimed at balancing privacy and security. It was an attempt to reassure Britons that their data was in safe hands and that the data was necessary for security, especially, after the Edward Snowden revelations.

In that regard, some of the key provisions include a directive to web and phone companies to maintain a record of every website a customer visited for 12 months. Police, intelligence agencies and other bodies could access these records once a judge issued a warrant.

Additionally, instead of the investigative agencies surveilling and requesting data on everyone, they would instead restrict the use of communications data only in serious crime such as terrorist suspicions.

Also, the intelligence agencies and the police could interfere with equipment, or in other words hack the device of an individual in the event of national security fears.

Controversy has dogged the Act since inception with many concerned parties raising concern. A good example is the Civil Liberties Charity Liberty.

Liberty says spying on peoples’ emails, text, phone records and internet history without suspicion of crime undermine everything central to the UK democracy and freedom.

Recently—in April of this year—thanks to a challenge by Labor Deputy Leader Tom Watson, a UK court of appeal ruled the Act unlawful. The battle is ongoing; however, at the moment, the fact remains that ISPs maintain a lot of user data.

Exactly What Type of Data Does Your ISP Maintain?

Internet Service Providers have access to, and they maintain a lot of user data. To start with; they have access to your online communications depending on how the ISP is set up. What does that mean?

Consider a Gmail example. Your ISP can only see the traffic to and from Google’s servers. They have no access to the actual content behind your traffic. However, if the ISP reroutes your traffic via a web proxy and forces you to use their certificate, then they can view your content.

Second, ISPs have access to your search traffic. In essence, while the ISP cannot see the URL and the content in unencrypted form if the site uses HTTPS, they can still monitor all the requests you make to the Domain Name Server (DNS).

Remember, anytime you want to access a site, the request goes through specific steps every single time. The first step is the DNS lookup. Essentially that is the translation or mapping of the domain name, e.g., Google.com to the corresponding IP address.

The requests to the DNS can reveal a lot about you. If unconvinced, then consider the following DNS requests.

1st November 2018 10:32:33 abortionfacts.com

1st November 2018 10:35:42 plannedparenhoodaction.org

1st November 2018 10:38:03 abortionfunds.org

1st November 2018 10:40:20 maps.google.com

What have you observed? Isn’t it scary to realize that in a matter of only 8 minutes an ISP probably knows more about the above user than anyone else around her at that particular moment? With that in mind, the question now becomes, what can you do about it?

You Should Consider VPN Because It Is the Best Possible Solution

The thing that makes VPN with a UK server the best possible option is the fact that it covers every aspect of your online activities while giving you the fastest speeds by routing you through a local server.

Consider another protective measure like TOR for instance. When you use the Tor browser, your activity online is sent across a network of Tor servers. The Tor servers are secure, and any data that moves across the network is encrypted.

That means your search traffic is protected but what about your communications? That is where VPN comes in. It can cover both your communications and your search traffic. It can ensure no ISP keeps a log of your activities or queries the DNS for the websites you visit.

Final Word

The UK government is determined to keep monitoring the online activities of its citizens in the name of security. ISPs are collecting your data and making millions out of it. To protect your privacy; a VPN is the most and only comprehensive solution.