Perhaps I’m just old and suspicious, but I’m increasingly concerned about the personal information that I give away to companies like Google and Facebook for their services. I’ve had enough of being the product. As for the information gathered surreptitiously by third parties, such as ISPs and government agencies, I’ve had enough of snooping and I don’t accept that if I’ve nothing to fear, I’ve nothing to hide. It’s simply none of their business.
Consequently, I’m working on a couple of strategies to mitigate my exposure, including some fake personas for simple things like compulsory registrations. While I’m not a social media superstar, I’m present on most social media platforms and it’ll take time to balance out the public and private. Fortunately in the UK, it’s not illegal to take a new identity unless the intention is criminal (so I’m told).
On a more practical side, I’ve already signed up for protonmail.com to secure my email correspondence and I’m going to move away from the big name providers in a gradual process. The other area of interest is VPNs and for those who aren’t in the know, a VPN is a Virtual Private Network. It hides your activity from the owner or maintainer of any local network connection – think of it as an opaque pipe within a transparent tube – so it’s good for protecting against both nosy ISPs wanting to sell your browsing history, and defending against nefarious activity on public wifi hotspots.
I’ve been tinkering with some of the software-based VPNs both for both mobile and home use as my ISP provided-modem/router doesn’t have any VPN capability. Software solutions are fine if you have one or two devices, but when you’ve umpteen tablets and laptops in the house, it’s a pain.
An alternative is a dedicated VPN hardware solution and this Kickstarter campaign from InvizBox caught my eye. Simply, the InvizBox 2 is a wireless access point that connects to your home router, and then encrypts all the traffic over a VPN (or the Tor network). There’s no need for individual configuration as everything that connects to the access point benefits from the VPN. Your local ISP is then completely unable to track your activities and sell them on. Even better, the ISP can’t throttle your traffic based on type of use, or use of competing services.
Obviously these are benefits enjoyed by all VPNs, but as a neat hardware package, the InvizBox 2 looks attractive. Other features on the InvizBox 2 include ad blocking and parental controls. The latter is useful as the VPN will bypass any controls implemented on your router or by your ISP, so you might need to defend against inquisitive teens. You can get round geo-blocking too – that’s where you can’t see some content because you are visiting from the wrong country. As with most VPNs, a regular subscription is required (allow around US$5 / €5 per month) but there are some deals there too.
The standard InvizBox 2 is currently at €109 and the Pro is €149 if you get in quick, both with a year of VPN service. Other deals are available and delivery is expected in April next year. The team has already hit their goal of €50,000 and there’s still a week to go, so the project is going to be funded. As background, the InvizBox team are based in Dublin, Ireland and have a track record of delivery from previous Kickstarters, so there’s a good level of confidence. However, as with all Kickstarter campaigns, consider yourself a patron rather than a customer until the product is in your hands.
I might actually plonk down some cash for this….