Do I need a VPN on my phone in the US?
When people think of VPNs, the first thing that often comes to mind is personal computers, work devices, and the ability to stream movies. However, we are spending more and more time using the internet on our phones instead of on the computer. The truth is, You face the same privacy risks on your phone as you do on your desktopWhether you are browsing social media or shopping online.
Since apps, not browsers, are the mainstay of mobile internet use, it’s easy to forget that your data is still vulnerable to monitoring by ISPs, the companies that profit from your data, and possibly the US government.
As a company dedicated to protecting your right to privacy, we hope to build awareness about the ways your data can be collected and what you can do to prevent it. In this article, we cover the types of information that can be pulled from your phone use, how that information is collected in the US, and how a VPN can protect your privacy.
Increase screen time
Americans are spending an increasing amount of time using their phones at home and in public places. in 2020, Average phone user spending 4.3 hours From their day on their phones. That’s a quarter of our average waking life, and it’s increased by a full hour from the 3.25 hours we spend daily in 2019.
Since we use smartphones more often, we also store more of our data there: our conversations, entertainment, life schedules, private accounts, and financial information. But privacy often falls back. Once we allow data collection, we lose control of it.
Tracking and Monitoring
A large amount of data can be collected or exposed on your phone when you use relatively normal functions, such as GPS to navigate or social media to post a photo. This means that third parties can collect information such as your location, demographics, or account information that you may not want to access.
At some point, an app might have asked for your permission to track your location, stating that it would only be used to improve your experience with the app. However, sometimes hidden in lengthy privacy policies they reveal it Your location data is already being sold to third parties, with accuracy up to a meter. in 2018, New York times It found that at least 75 companies were selling location data to marketers and advertisers without being explicit about it. Tracking users’ location data in this way is an invasion of privacy that allows companies to profit from you without making you fully aware of how your site is being used.
Companies like Google and Facebook make money by collecting your data and creating comprehensive profiles about you. Your age, occupation, family, interests, habits, and other characteristics are monitored and made available to advertisers to influence you.
Many types of applications run on this type of data:
- Social media sites like Facebook track the activity on your phone even outside the app. Since massive data breaches are not uncommon, it also means that your data can be leaked.
- Fitness apps, including those used with smartwatches, track your location in real time, and health monitoring apps store your private medical information.
- Dating apps, such as Tinder or Grindr, leak everything from location data to sensitive health information.
Just as your social media information and location can be tracked, you can also track your browsing history. ISPs can track and sell your browsing history to every website you visit on your phone, and organizations use this data to influence specific demographics. They are also required to disclose this information to law enforcement agencies if they are presented with a subpoena. These special practices make your browsing profile liable for use without your knowledge.
The above risks are especially apparent when using any public WiFi network. Even WiFi in restaurants and malls can be used to collect and misuse your data. Administrators of public WiFi networks in places such as airports and hotels can collect data in order to regulate specific advertisements. Just because public WiFi is free doesn’t mean that no one takes advantage of it.
Data collection in the United States
Since Edward Snowden revealed the extent of NSA data collection in 2013, more people have become aware that the US government can covertly monitor their online activities. A complete technical and legal apparatus has been established for this purpose.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, created under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is a secret court allowing government oversight long before the Snowden days. This court oversees approval of government requests to monitor citizens in operations such as wiretapping and data collection. This court is largely seen as a rubber stamp commission: from its inception through 2014, it approved more than 98% of applications without modification.
In 2015, Congress passed the Freedom Act, which prohibits the National Security Agency from collecting large amounts of data on private citizens. However, this does not prevent them from using the courts to Obtaining data collected by companies such as Google and Facebook whenever they consider it a matter of national security. This also met little resistance, as 74% of requests on Facebook were fulfilled by the government.
Even then, the FBI can issue National Security Letters (NSLs) to secretly subpoena organizations to hand over user data without any court approval. According to our research on these statistics, the trend of governments to use companies to collect data on their citizens is increasing.
Secure your phone with a VPN
Due to the amount of time we spend on our phones, it may feel like you are constantly being watched with eyes that you can’t see. Fortunately, features like location tracking can be restricted by denying apps permission to track your location or simply by turning off location services in your phone’s settings. You can also adjust your settings on social media sites such as Facebook to limit the information that is stored for advertisers.
While having a VPN doesn’t solve every problem with tracking data on your smartphone, it does provide a basic level of privacy that in-app settings and other technologies can’t. To make sure you feel safe taking this step, ProtonVPN always puts your privacy as a priority. We cover all of the following privacy concerns and more:
- Your data is encrypted when you use the Internet, so your browsing history cannot be tracked by your ISP or mobile service providers.
- We have a strict no-logs policy, which means you can feel safe because Proton never stores your mobile data.
- When using public WiFi, ProtonVPN maintains your privacy by protecting your data from being collected by hackers or a WiFi administrator.
We launched Proton in the wake of Snowden’s discoveries, and one of our main concerns in the United States has always been to secure the privacy of citizens who find it increasingly difficult to remain alone in a connected world. For these reasons, Proton is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. Switzerland has some of the strictest privacy laws in the world, making it difficult for even the FBI to access our users’ data because they even need a Swiss court order to get it. This gives us the ability to pass on the security benefits of Swiss law to those in the United States, as well as the rest of the world. For as long as Proton has been, we will always work towards this level of security and privacy.
ProtonVPN offers convenient and easy-to-use apps on Android and iOS, so downloading our VPN for your phone is a breeze. It can be hard to achieve true privacy in the US, but with our VPN, you can feel safe when you’re using your phone.
Using a VPN on your smartphone in the US FAQ
What does a VPN do on my phone?
Using a VPN on your phone means that your IP address is hidden, and your internet traffic is encrypted and routed through secure VPN servers. This prevents your ISP, mobile service provider, and websites from identifying you or collecting your data. You can read more about how this works in our blog post What is a VPN? And you can get ProtonVPN for free on iOS and Android.
Can you be tracked online if you use a VPN?
A VPN blocks efforts to track your online browsing. Your data is encrypted and passes through a secure VPN server. Your ISP can’t see the sites you visit, and the sites you visit don’t see your device’s IP address.
Can the US government request the data of someone using a VPN?
Yes, the US government can ask any company to assist in an ongoing investigation. This is why it is important to read the policies of the VPN you choose. For example, ProtonVPN has a no-logs policy. This means that ProtonVPN does not log any information about its users.
By default, the US government can require that ProtonVPN monitor a user in real time or require that logs be played. However, since ProtonVPN is a Swiss company, we are not subject to US law. Any application submitted by a foreign government must first be approved by the competent Swiss authority.
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