Privacy Blog

"Friends don’t let friends get spied on.' – Richard Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation and longtime advocate of privacy in technology.

When Visiting Political, Religious, Sexual, Drug-Related, or other Controversial Web Sites, Always Use a VPN

This is a bit of a follow-up to the previous article, Trump Administration Demands Data on over a Million Visitors to anti-Trump Site.

The Trump administration is demanding web host provider Dreamhost turn over the logs of over 1.3 million visitors to an anti-Trump website it hosts, the company has revealed. The demand asks for the IP addresses and other information that could be used to identify anyone who visited the site. “The request from the DOJ demands that DreamHost hand over 1.3 million visitor IP addresses — in addition to contact information, email content, and photos of thousands of people — in an effort to determine who simply visited the website,” the company said in its blog post. The warrant, DreamHost argues, would also require it to hand over any communications that are even tangentially related to the website.

Such a request has a chilling effect on the rights of free speech, the rights of association, and numerous other rights that Americans have enjoyed for more than 200 years.

The request probably is illegal and also displays an appalling ignorance of the technology involved. In short, the politicians apaprently are not aware that anyone who uses a VPN (virtual private network) or Tor networking has a hidden IP address.

Also, anyone using Use Tor networking, a Proxy Server, or public WiFi also is not displaying any identifying IP address. The fact that the Trump administration demands IP addresses to “identify the people who accessed the web site” shows how little the people in that administration understand the World Wide Web.

For details, read How to Hide Your IP Address at

Also, for anyone not using a VPN or Tor networking, it makes no difference if you are for or against the topic at hand. It makes no difference if you post messages or if you simply read what others are doing and saying. The request for identifying information about all visitors paints everyone as guilty. In short, it is “guilty until proven innocent,” if ever. In many cases, you won’t even have an opportunity to prove your innocence simply because you won’t be aware that you have been identified as a visitor to the web site.

Of course, there is a lesson here for all citizens: always use a VPN or use Tor. In fact, it is a good idea to use these software tools all the time when online. However, it is doubly important to do so if you visit any web site(s) that might be deemed controversial by some other group. Of course, “controversial” could be defined in many different ways, depending upon the biases of the person or groups involved.

If you use a laptop computer while in a hotel or at the airport, you are sharing the IP address used by everyone else in that hotel or airport. Even if you do not visit controversial web sites, if anyone else in the hotel or at the airport does visit such a web site, you are included as a “visitor” to the web site! Admittedly, that is almost impossible to prove.

If you want to simply read about political issues of the day, any “unapproved” religion, about “unapproved” sex, drugs, finances, taxes, or any other topics that might not by approved by the current administration, you want to use a VPN or Tor networking.

Also, please think about the words “current administration.” Don’t forget that administrations in the U.S. change every eight years and sometimes sooner. Perhaps the administration that is in power today is one that you approve of. However, don’t forget that whatever precedents that administration gets away with can then also be used by future administrations, even for purposes that you do not approve of.

Most of the time, a conservative administration is later replaced by a moderate or liberal administration. Moderate or liberal administrations eventually get replaced by conservative administrations. There are exceptions, of course, but that does happen more than 50% of the time. And it is guaranteed that ANY administration will eventually be replaced by a new administration with a very different political viewpoint. If not within 8 years, it absolutely will happen within 12 or 16 or 20 years. In politics, nothing lasts forever.

Do you want a new administration, one with very different political ideas, to use the tools to spy on citizens that are developed by today’s administration?

Using a VPN is not a perfect solution but it is a big help. In fact, I always use a VPN any time I am online, even if all I want to do is to read the weather report.

Categories: Online Privacy & Security, Politics, Thoughts About Privacy, VPN (Virtual Private Networking)

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