A new survey carried out by polling company YouGov has found that the number of Brits using a Virtual Private Network or VPN is on the rise. It also found that awareness of VPNs was at record highs too.
The survey, which questioned 1,776 British adults between 31st January and 1st February 2019 found that 20% of those surveyed now use a VPN on a regular basis.
In total, 4% of those asked said that they used a VPN every time they went online. A further 16% said they used one on occasions. This figure rises to 25% when just the 18-25 year old demographic is taken into consideration.
These figures are an increase on similar previous surveys and show that concern over online privacy is driving more people towards VPNs. They also reinforce customer data from top providers like ExpressVPN and IPVanish which shows the number of UK-based customers is on the rise.
Since the Investigatory Powers Act was passed in 2016, forcing ISPs to record users data for 12 months, more and more British people have become aware of online privacy issues.
VPN services such as ExpressVPN, IPVanish, NordVPN and others help you to prevent your data being recorded. They encrypt all of your data to keep it safe from prying eyes and by rerouting your data through an external server, it can also prevent ISPs from seeing what you are doing online too.
However, the survey was not all good news for VPNs. While their use may be on the rise, the survey also found a significant number of people still didn’t know what a VPN was. In total, a third of those asked by YouGov couldn’t answer the question, ‘what is a VPN?’.
This new survey was not restricted to questions about VPNs alone. It also revealed a number of other telling public perceptions about online surveillance and privacy.
A total of 71% of those questioned said they believed that tech companies recorded people’s private data without their consent. However, a staggering 56% didn’t see this as a problem, with just 15% expressing concern.
However, when asked about the steps they take to protect their privacy online, the results were more encouraging. Two-thirds of those asked (64%) said they adjusted their privacy settings to prevent the unauthorised capture of personal data, while just 19% never did this.
More than a third (38%) said they always deny permissions for apps they download to collect data on anything that is not strictly necessary, while a further 42% do this on occasion.
A remarkably high 21% of respondents said they always cover up their webcam while a further 18% said they do so on occasion. This figure is likely to have spiked after the popular movie Snowden, about whistle-blower Edward Snowden, showed him doing exactly this when he realised the NSA could access them.
But there was less positive news about passwords and pins. The survey showed that 26% of smartphone users and 25% of laptop users do not always have passwords and security codes set up on their devices.
A further 19% only set passwords on occasion, while 7% of smartphone users and 6% of laptop never set up a password or security code.
The general trends seen in this survey suggest that awareness of online privacy and security and a willingness to take steps to protect it is on the rise. But while all progress is a good thing, it continues to be slow.
Given that the UK now has the most intrusive online surveillance regime in the developed world, these figures could be expected to be considerably higher than they are.
The survey reinforces the fact that a VPN is an essential tool for you to protect your online privacy and keep your data safe from hackers and government surveillance. But it also shows that more people in the UK need to be making use of one. We will continue to spread the word and we hope that you will too.