Explained: What is VPN and why does parliamentary committee want to ban it?

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs reportedly wants the Indian government to ban Virtual Private Network (VPN) services in the country. As the debate around VPN grows, here’s an explainer about the whole issue:

What are VPNs?

VPNs are an internet tool for creating a private network when users are connected to less secure public or home Internet connections. The primary objective of VPNs is to mask your IP address and location and encrypt network traffic.

They are used so that Internet Service Provider (ISP), websites, malwares, third party trackers, and other entities cannot identify the data you download and upload on your connection.

Advantages of VPNs

VPNs are used at least once a month by about 30 percent of all Internet users, as per a Forbes report. The tool is used to secure networks and data from hackers, especially by corporate companies. It also keeps data safe when one is using a public connection in places like cafes and restaurants.

But apart from this VPNs can also help users bypass regional restrictions on websites and access content that might not be available in theicountry.

Why has the Parliamentary Standing Committee recommended banning VPNs?

As per media reports, the Parliamentary Standing Committee has recommended a ban on the tools, saying they “allow criminals to remain anonymous online”. The Committee also noted that the tools could be downloaded easily from several websites.

Therefore, it recommended the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology identity such VPNs with the help of ISPs and block them permanently.

The Committee also advised the government to set up a coordination mechanism to be “developed with international agencies to ensure that these VPNs are blocked permanently”. It has also recommended strengthening surveillance and tracking mechanisms to check the use of VPNs and the dark web.

How will a potential ban on VPNs affect you?

A ban on VPNs can throw remote working in India into jeopardy. Many corporate companies may require employees to work on a secured Internet connection that is given by the office. Privacy concerns and data protection will also be affected if the tool is banned.

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