Americans seem to worry about their online privacy and mass surveillance, as the new election brings some uncertainty about the policies of the new administration. The new President-elect has said in the past that ³all freedoms flow from national security² and favored ³closing the Internet² for certain foreign regions, but has also expressed contradictory statements about protecting people¹s online privacy.
Facing uncertainty about future Internet security and privacy, many Americans started to turn to encryption services, including VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). For example, ProtonMail, encrypted email provider from Switzerland, has seen its number of users double following the U.S. election aftermath, and downloads of encrypted messaging app, Signal, have spiked since the election. NordVPN, a Virtual Private Network service provider, which encrypts Internet traffic, has also seen a notable increase of software downloads in the US.
Current online privacy situation in the U.S.
While the future actions of the new administration remain uncertain, the current situation of U.S. surveillance is already worrisome. Congress has passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) in 2015. CISA, said to have been created to protect companies from the growing corporate data breaches, has evoked a wave of protests from tech community. Critics claim that the law is a free pass to mass surveillance. The bill allows big tech companies to share their users¹ information with the government without a warrant, violating user privacy and bypassing legal accountability.
For example, Yahoo has been asked by the U.S. government to track people by using a spam filter. This was the first incident when U.S. government was targeting all accounts as opposed to just a few selected ones - and it doesn¹t mean it won¹t happen again, and in larger numbers, under the new presidency.
What to expect from the new administration in terms of online security?
With the U.S. election, the control of NSA will fall into the hands of the President-elect Donald Trump and his cabinet.
The U.S. president appoints the director of NSA, who is then confirmed by Senate voting. While activities of NSA are governed by Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the president has the power to change FISA rules or to pass a new law with the help of the Congress. The new law can get challenged in Supreme Court, but it might lean towards national security and mass surveillance if majority of its members are conservative.
As a result, President Trump will have the power to introduce different surveillance laws or to change the existing ones - for example, or possibly bring back the intrusive Patriot Act.
Protecting Privacy in Surveillance Age
It is inevitable that many American Internet users concerned about their privacy will look for tools to protect their online data. Some turn to secure email companies, others use Tor browser and many are careful about which information they reveal online.
VPNs, Virtual Private Networks, are some of the most secure choices for those looking to stay private while using the Internet. VPNs allow people to stay private online by encrypting all their online activities into a secure tunnel. Connecting to a VPN server makes one¹s browsing data invisible to a third party.
NordVPN, which is one of the most advanced VPNs on the market, offers double encryption servers for extra security, advanced protocols, and doesn¹t keep any customer logs.
While VPNs are becoming more popular in the U.S., there is still a number of myths about the most important parameters to consider when choosing the most reliable service. There is a division between ³techy² people, and less technologically-oriented Americans, who would like to protect their online browsing, but mistakenly consider the process to be too complex and thus stay unprotected.