The merits of using a VPN are increasingly well known. They offer you online security, privacy, and the ability to unlock blocked content around the world. But new reports suggest they could also be playing a role in the battle against online privacy too.
Yes, that’s right, we said ‘against’. There is a perception that VPNs are used by many people to hide unlawful online activity including those who like to stream and download pirated content.
There is no denying that some people do use a VPN for that purpose. But it seems that while this is helping them to hide their online identity, it could be harming the very sites they use.
Why pirate sites don’t like VPN users
According to a report on the website TorrentFreak, a number of pirate websites are finding the huge growth in global VPN use a big problem. The reason for their concern is that, quite simply, it is depriving them of revenue.
Most pirate websites provide illegal access to movies, TV shows, music, and other media content for free. That is their big attraction. But running these sites cost money and most people who set them up will be hoping to make a few quid on top of covering their costs too.
The most common way for them to do this is through adverts. Online advertising is big business and if you attract a large number of visitors to your website, as some pirate sites do, it can be extremely lucrative.
However, visitors who are using a VPN are rated as almost worthless by most advertising networks and this means that the more visitors that are using a VPN a site gets, the less money it makes.
Why don’t ad networks like VPN users?
The reason that advertising networks are not keen on VPN traffic is the same reason that most people use them. It hides a person’s identity and true geographic location.
For advertisers, knowing where people are from is important because some regions, such as the USA, UK, Australia, Canada, and Japan are more valuable than others.
All internet users generate a geocode though their IP Address and online advertising networks pay based on that geocode.
However, VPN users don’t give out such as code. Instead, they are categorised as “A1: Anonymous Proxy” and advertisers will not pay anything for that.
As one anonymous pirate site explained to TorrentFreak, “Pirate sites need money to operate. Having more VPN users accessing the site doesn’t equal more money… no one gets paid for those.”
It is not just VPNs that fall under this category. So too does TOR and some regular proxy services too. All of this traffic is penalised in the same way.
There are some benefits to the VPN user from this arrangement too. As another pirate site operator said, “I have worked with a few networks before that don’t even show a popup if you’re using a VPN.”
In other words, using a VPN means some advertisers won’t even bother to advertise to you. No more annoying pop-ups!
Why you should always use a VPN when accessing such sites
TorrentFreak claims that this issue was brought to them by the pirate sites which suggests that it is starting to become a big problem for them.
This illustrates the growth of VPN usage around the world very clearly.
It also suggests that more people are aware of the risks of being caught accessing illegal content online and are aware that using a VPN can help to protect them. For some, the prospect of fewer adverts too will make the justification for using a VPN even stronger.
Here at VPNCompare.co.uk, we would never condone using a VPN to access pirated content. But it is impossible to ignore the fact that these sites exist and people do still access them.
For those people, the case for using a VPN is pretty clear-cut. A VPN hides your true IP Address making it almost impossible for anyone to link you directly to any content you stream or download.
Some may decide to stop using a VPN to access these sites in order to help support them. That is their choice but they should be fully aware of the potential risks they are placing themselves under if they do.
For rights holders, this story also creates a dilemma. The likes of Netflix and the BBC iPlayer have instinctively opposed VPN use because they believe it helps copyright piracy.
But actually, it appears the opposite is true which suggests that maybe they need to think again about their ineffective attempts to block access to VPN users.