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People are looking up VPNs after the House voted away internet privacy rules

Why it matters to you

The spike in search queries shows that some people are thinking about extra online protection, for this week at least.

A few days removed from a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives on internet privacy, there has been a notable boost in search queries for virtual private networks, or VPNs.

Congress voted on Tuesday to repeal FCC internet privacy rules that would have prevented internet service providers (ISPs) from selling customer data without a clear opt-in. The rule change is a cause for concern for ISP customers who will now potentially see their data sold on to third parties, which has led to a spike in searches online for privacy tools like VPNs.

Torrent Freak pulled Google Trends data from 2012 to 2017. While there are ups and downs month to month, the overall trajectory is on the up, especially after the Snowden leaks. But there has also been a noticeable uptick in March of this year.

We looked at some of the data available from the last seven days. You’ll see that there is an obvious leap on March 29, the day after the vote, and the next day also.

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NordVPN told Digital Trends that it has seen an 86-percent increase in inquiries from American users this week. A spokesperson for HideMyAss, another VPN provider, which is owned by Avast, said it too has seen a spike in traffic to its site.

“Such spikes in user interest in VPNs are not unusual,” said NordVPN CMO, Marty P. Kamden. The VPN provider saw similar upticks after the passing of the U.K.’s Snoopers Charter for instance and the recent CIA/WikiLeaks revelations.

“We are worried about the global tendency to invade internet users’ privacy, and we are glad we can offer a reliable tool that helps people keep their information private,” he said.

Many VPN providers were opposed to the rules being changed and many campaigned against it. One VPN, Private Internet Access, even took out a full-page ad in the New York Times to name and shame the senators that first voted for the repeal last week. However VPN providers may stand to gain business from this controversial rule change.

Google queries are one thing, though, as they only show us that there is interest in VPNs at a particular moment. Time will tell if this is just a burst of interest or if it will lead to a market shift in response to this legislative move.