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Why is online privacy so important?

The internet always getting bigger, and when even your toaster’s getting online it’s easier than ever to have your entire life exposed. These days, everything we do is online. We google it, snap it, filter it, WhatsApp it — the list is endless. And the risk of exposure is higher than ever. Your browsing history, habits and behavior are all tracked and stored by ISPs, be it for government requirements or to sell to advertisers.

Related: What is a VPN and why you need one?

Your personal information should be just that. Personal. And because it’s personal, it’s important you’re able to limit others from sharing, selling, and tracking it. The consequences of not protecting your personal data on the internet can be dire. Without protecting your privacy, you’re wide open to attacks from cyber criminals, tracking by ISPs, advertisers targeting you, and government surveillance.

Why is this a bad thing? Well, it doesn’t take very much for a cybercriminal to be able to steal your identity. A few basic pieces of your personal data can give them ways to access your online banking accounts, credit card details, and private information in seconds.

Having your ISP track your browsing history means they are aware of every site you access online: they can view your personal preferences on what you read, view, and surf. And shouldn’t what you do on the internet be your business only?

And if you think it’s OK for the government to know what you’re up to, you may not have thought it all the way through. Government restrictions on what is deemed acceptable behavior online can change at any time. If the government decides tomorrow something is illegal, they can use the access they have to your browsing history to persecute you. Do you still want your government to be able to track and access all your internet browsing habits?

Even if you think nothing you do could ever be used against you, saying you don’t care about privacy because you have nothing to hide is like saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say: someone else might, and it’s not up to you to remove that right from others because you have no use for it.

And everyone has something to hide. It’s common knowledge that people don’t act the same when they know they’re being watched. This is stifling for freedom of speech and thought. We’re much less likely to look up controversial material if there is the risk that it will label us as something in the future.

Related: Why use a VPN at home, work or on your phone?