Pointing to national security concerns, President Trump’s recent executive order threatens to ban TikTok if it’s not sold by the Chinese-owned company. Although Microsoft, Twitter, and now Oracle have expressed interest in acquiring the wildly popular social media app, the future of TikTok is at the moment unclear.
Amidst the uncertainty, teens everywhere are suddenly googling the letters “VPN.” Why? Among other key features, VPNs offer location masking. Although we don’t know how the proposed ban would be enforced, in theory a VPN could allow users to access the app even from within the United States.
What’s a VPN?
When you use a VPN (Virtual Private Network), your internet connection is rerouted through a private server. With the VPN acting as an intermediary, your IP address (your computer’s unique ID) is masked, protecting your identity. Any personal data you send while connected is encrypted, transmitted as an unreadable code. In this way, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) is not able to see what websites you visit, what apps you use, or any of the data you send or receive.
- Protects you on public WiFi
VPNs let you encrypt unencrypted communications sent to and from your device, so if your data were intercepted it would be unreadable.
- Offers online anonymity
VPNs mask your IP address, location, and activity so you can browse the internet privately.
- Lets you access geo-blocked content
Some VPNs allow you to access content that’s blocked based on your geographical location.
1. Protects you on public WiFi
One of the primary uses for a VPN is staying secure on an unsecure connection, like when browsing the internet on the WiFi at airports, cafés, and hotels. Without one, a motivated, tech-savvy person who’s connected to the same public network as you could use basic hacking techniques to view your browsing activity and intercept your data. This includes any sites that you visit or any information you submit online, like your username and password combinations.
How a VPN helps: A VPN encrypts all your unencrypted internet activity, from web surfing to VoIP calls, blocking potential hacks.
2. Offers online anonymity
As it currently stands, internet service providers like Verizon and AT&T have complete access to all of your browsing history. They collect personal data and may even hand it over to advertisers, the government, or other third parties. More on that here. They are able to do so because your internet activity is connected to your device’s unique IP address.
How a VPN helps: VPNs hide your IP address and encrypt all the data you send or receive so the ISP can no longer see what websites you’re visiting or searches you’re making.
3. Lets you access geo-blocked content
By changing your IP address, a VPN makes it appear to content providers that you are browsing in another region, allowing you to access content that may not be available in your current location. You should check the terms of service to understand what’s permitted by your streaming service and be mindful of any country-specific penalties.
How a VPN helps: Free VPN lets you choose your server location from 20+ countries, so you can access what you want, wherever you are.