According to new research from analytics firm YouGov, a surprisingly large number of UK internet users are now using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN.
A VPN is a handy tool for anyone who wants to conceal their activity online. Put simply, it works by providing a server to act as a middle man for your internet activity.
So, when you visit websites and download information, all the data travels through a VPN server before reaching your computer, phone or tablet – and vice versa.
Because everything is encrypted, your internet activity can be kept separate from your Internet Service Provider.
And with censorship from schools, workplaces and even governments on the rise, this opportunity for privacy has been welcomed by many internet users.
VPNs in the UK
As part of their Incognito Individual report, YouGov found that a staggering 16 percent of British adults have used either a VPN or a proxy server. Similar to a VPN, a proxy works with your internet browser to conceal your location and protect your privacy.
But why are so many people keen to hide what they’re doing online?
According to YouGov, the main reason is to access sites that are normally limited to specific regions – such as accessing iPlayer abroad or watching censored content on YouTube.
Apparently, 48 percent of British VPN and proxy users cited this is their key motivation.
Additionally, some 44 percent – around four in ten users – chose to browse this way for added security, while 37 percent stated that enhanced privacy was most important.
For 24 percent of users, the ability to access sites that would usually be blocked at home or at work was their main reason for using a VPN or proxy. And for 19 percent, their main motivation was a desire to decrease spam and avoid ads.
“The number of people using VPN is significant enough to provide a headache to those services which use region-based access. Alongside ad blockers, disposable email and private browsing, a substantial percentage of people try to go undetected online.” – Nasra Aharchich, YouGov
Could this be the start of a revolution in how we approach our browsing habits?
As the concept of net neutrality grows ever more fragile, more and more users are looking to conceal their activity online – creating a new online landscape that marketers must learn to navigate afresh.