Young File-Sharers Respond To Tough Laws By Buying a VPN

A new survey has revealed that young people are responding to tough legislation and increasing levels of online spying by investing in VPN services. The study, carried out by the Cybernorms research group at Sweden's Lund University, found that when compared to figures from late 2009, 40% more 15 to 25-year-olds are now hiding their activities online.

Faced with the almost impossible task of physically restricting people’s activities online, during recent years authorities and copyright holders have sought to have legislation tightened up, to encourage citizens towards a path of “doing the right thing” through the fear of more and more serious consequences.

In Sweden, the results of intense lobbying are clear. Due to a combination of fat Internet pipes and its status as the spiritual home of The Pirate Bay, Sweden and file-sharing go hand in hand. As a result the country is being subjected to considerable online surveillance.

But according to new research from the Cybernorms research group at Sweden’s Lund University, an increasing proportion of the country’s population are taking measures to negate the effects of spying on their online activities.

The study reveals that 700,000 Swedes now make themselves anonymous online with paid VPN services such as The Pirate Bay’s iPredator.

A similar study carried out in 2009 revealed that 500,000 Swedes were taking steps to anonymize their connections. Today’s results therefore reveal a 40% increase in privacy service uptake in roughly 2.5 years.

Of particular interest is the response to surveillance by the younger generation. According to Cybernorms, 200,000 individuals aged between 15 to 25-years-old are now hiding themselves online. This figure represents 15% of the total group, up from 10% in 2009.

Måns Svensson, PhD in Sociology of Law at Lund and study manager, says that further uptake of anonymization services will only increase as new legislation is introduced.

“If the [recent] European Court of Justice opinion leads to an intensified hunt for file sharers, there is evidence that the use of these types of services for anonymity will grow even faster,” says Svensson.

While the researchers at Lund estimate that file-sharing is one of the key drivers behind the update of anonymity services, according to the foundation administering Sweden’s top-level .SE domain, monitoring of other kinds is also playing its part.

“Where monitoring is increasing, both from government and from private players like Facebook and Google, so does demand,” .SE president Danny Aerts told Svenska Dagbladet.

Whether it’s for file-sharing, domain blockage circumvention or freedom of speech, anonymization services are here to stay. Welcome to the encrypted Internet.

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