Imagine that you’re sitting in your house, enjoying a quiet evening and, after the sun goes down, you want to pull the curtains. It’s not that you’re doing anything objectionable; you just don’t want anyone to be able to look into your house without your permission. Now imagine that the neighborhood watch comes by, tears down your curtains and tells you that it makes it too difficult for them to make sure that nothing untoward is going on.
This analogy describes what’s going on with your ISP. Golden Frog, a really great VPN provider and a consistent advocate for Internet privacy, recently released an editorial about this matter, and noted that users who chose to encrypt their communications have already experienced an inability to secure their own communications.
Being very technically adept, they traced down the issue to STARTTLS being intercepted by a wireless phone provider – Cricket – which prevented one of the Golding Frog engineers from being able to use secure email.
Golden Frog repeated their testing on AT&T’s network and didn’t find any blocking of encryption going on.
The usual excuse for limiting people’s right to privacy is, of course, security. This is usually written off as network management, as Golden Frog points out. Unfortunately, the excuses usually don’t hold up. For example, a YouTube video showed a user –who happened to be on VyprVPN – clearly getting their network traffic choked when they tried to access Netflix, but being able to access it just fine once they turned on a VPN so their ISP couldn’t see what site they were trying to access.
Security is always a convenient excuse. Most of the time, blocking VPN traffic seems to come down to protecting profit more than anything else, by eliminating customer access to services that compete with that of their ISP.
Mobile Internet providers that block privacy services put their customers at risk. Those privacy services are designed to make sure that people can communicate securely and with confidence over mobile Internet connections. It would seem that, contrary to the usual motivations behind this, a wireless carrier would actually be hurting their profit potential by not allowing people to communicate securely and forcing them to risk getting hacked.
The Open Access rules that should apply to wired ISPs, as Golden Frog points out, should apply to mobile Internet services, as well. In the simplest terms, there is absolutely no reason to prevent a user from being able to protect their own privacy. Nobody benefits, security is decreased rather than increased and the only people who stand to profit from it are ISPs that want to make sure businesses that compete for the same markets they do are on an uneven playing field.