The Investigatory Powers Bill (IPBill) has been dubbed the “most invasive surveillance law in democratic history” and it is about to come into effect at the end of 2016 in the United Kingdom.
In this article I’m looking at the simple way in which you can protect your online privacy and hide your online activity from this draconian surveillance law while also staying on the right side of the law.
What is the Investigatory Powers Bill
In a nutshell the Investigatory Powers Bill (also known as the IPBill and more recently dubbed the “Snooper’s Charter“) is a law that will require all internet companies (ISPs) to record and store the web addresses of every website that you visit if you live in the United Kingdom.
While it won’t record what you do on any website or the pages that you visit it will store every web address you type and visit. A collection of 48 different government agencies will have access to this information and most worrying they will be able to access your web history without a warrant.
How to protect yourself from the Investigatory Powers Bill
Unfortunately it seems there is very little we can do directly to stop this bill but with a little known tool you can hide your web browsing activity from the government and ensure that the websites you visit are not logged and stored.
What you’ll need is a service called a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which allows you to automatically encrypt your internet connection on your computer, tablet or phone and send it to another location (known as VPN server) in the UK or abroad.
To encrypt your internet connection means all the information is jumbled up and unreadable making it is impossible to know what websites you visit.
When your information reaches the VPN server it is then unencrypted and passed onto the wider internet.
A VPN is a completely legal tool that you can download for your computer as software or as an app for your tablet or phone. Many businesses use them to allow workers to access the office but more in recent years many individuals now use them as a way to protect their online privacy.
Where to get a VPN service
Online privacy has become a big concern around the world in recent years so the choice of VPN companies is vast.
Not all VPN companies are created equally so finding a reliable service can be a long and boring task as you wade through hundreds of options.
Over the years I’ve tested many different VPN services and find the following three to be the best. If you’re looking to protect your privacy and avoid having every website you visit logged as part of the Investigatory Powers Bill then it’s worth visiting one of the following providers and signing up.
A good VPN provider should cost between £4-£8 per month depending on the length of time you sign up for but most are charged in US Dollars so you should look at a price range of between $5-$10 per month.
The Investigatory Powers Bill is here to stay for now so it’s worth signing up for a yearly package as you can save up to 50% off the standard monthly price.
All three providers have between 7 and 30 day money back guarantees so there is no risk if you don’t like the service.
How to use a VPN service
All three providers above have software for Windows and Mac computers and apps for Android and iOS tablets and mobiles. The software and apps are extremely easy to use and once downloaded you simply choose a VPN server to connect to and then leave it running in the background.
Once connected it is impossible for your ISP to log and record what websites you visit, who you chat to or any other details about what you do online.
What VPN server should you connect to
A lot of discussion has taken place about which VPN server you should connect to. Essentially the Investigatory Powers Bill only covers ISPs in recording of the websites that you visit.
VPN servers are hosted in data centres and as far it is understood these are not covered by the new regulations.
What this means is you should be OK to use UK VPN servers and your privacy will still be protected.
However, with good speeds to nearby countries such as the Netherlands is makes more sense to connect there and ensure that all of your data travels outside of the UK.
Another option would be to use a Switzerland or Iceland based server which are also relatively nearby and should give good speeds but are outside the EU so may give even further protection.
Whatever country VPN server you choose to connect to, it goes without saying that a VPN is now essential for every UK citizen who wants to retain online privacy.
If you’re still unsure about what a VPN is then a good place to start is our What is a VPN: An Ultimate Beginners Guide and if you would like to do more research into a wider range of VPN services then check out our VPN Comparison Guide.