Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Protect User Information From Online Markets

In the sci-fi thriller 'Minority Report,' Tom Cruise sees tailor-made advertisements targeting him pop up wherever he goes. It's a paranoid's delusion come true.

Well, it's not science fiction anymore and it's not in your head. Advertisers are following you wherever your cell phone, smart device, laptop, or computer goes.

And it's going to get worse, so what do you do? Throw out your devices? Melt your face to hide your identity? Read this blog?

Virtual Private Network

Robert Knapp, CEO of CyberGhost, thinks his web-hosting business can hide you from the advertiser predator. Like many Virtual Private Networks, his company routes user traffic through its server to keep personal data from companies that buy and sell it.

"Many today think big data is the future, but I don't think it will be that simple," he said. "As more people learn how they can be harmed by those mining their data they will continue to look for products that'll protect them."

Knapp said his company hides 15 million users across the globe, securing and anonymizing their identities online. He said the company is growing "like hell," tripling its workforce to meet the demand.

For lawyers, who have a duty to protect client information, using a secure connection to the internet is part of the business. VPNs can help.

Not a Privacy Guarantee

VPNs provide a service, but not a privacy guarantee. China, Iran and other countries have banned them, and the United States is rolling back regulations that would have prevented internet service providers from selling users' web browsing data on the open market.

The rules, enacted by the Federal Communications Commission last year, will not take effect under the Trump Administration. In the meantime, ISP's are free to sell personal data without users' permission.

While VPNs can shield users, they also can interrupt other services users want. Netflix, for example, blocks VPNs to prevent people form accessing content not licensed in their home countries.

Mobile attorneys, particularly, should check VPN providers' policies for issues. Some log traffic on their websites and may disclose that information under certain circumstances.

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