For many people who use proxies for privacy reasons, their location is largely irrelevant. Obviously they need to be fast and accessible, so countries with poor internet infrastructure are not usually an option. For people who want to keep their connections as private as possible, the local laws are obviously an issue to. Generally places like Europe have mature and comprehensive privacy laws which mean that any data stored on servers is also protected. Other countries have little legislation and protection, which means that any logs or other data can be easily accessed.
However many of the people who use proxies and VPNs, simply don’t care about these issues – they simply use proxies to change their identity. A few years ago, everyone was treated pretty much the same when online. It didn’t matter if you were surfing the web from Cairo, New York, Tehran or Berlin – the experience was identical. This is no longer the case, for a variety of reasons your internet experience is heavily dependent on your physical location.
Take for example, that I send you a link to the latest BBC nature documentary which is streaming on BBC iPlayer. I am based in London and the programme works perfectly for me, however if you happened to open the link whilst in a different country – it wouldn’t work. This is because the BBC iPlayer application, arguably the greatest media website on the planet only works from a UK IP address. You can’t access it from any other country, without changing your identity. This video explains how it’s done – or watch this –
This is of course not an isolated example, in fact all the online UK TV stations are only accessible when used from the UK or using a British proxy.
This situation happens everywhere, all the US media sites do the same – you can’t access HBO, ABC, NBC or Hulu from outside the USA. French TV channels block non-French traffic, and the Germans do the same with their TV stations. Then you get big social sites like YouTube with hundreds of thousands of videos locked to specific countries too.
These are blocked for commercial reasons, either because of licensing issues for the content or simply so they can be sold in other countries perhaps as DVDs or CDs. But these restrictions don’t stop there, because along with commercial interests, there’s also a whole host of Governments and agencies actively blocking websites for political and social reasons. Increasingly countries are blocking access to content they feel is inappropriate for their citizens.
Of course this varies widely depending on the regime that is in charge. The Chinese block millions of sites for example, whereas some countries only block a handful. The trend though is that filtering and controlling access to the web is increasing globally irrespective or where you live. Just like monitoring in the name of fighting cyber crime and terrorism is also increasing too.
I get asked this quite a lot, but my answer is quite simply – it’s easy of course you can find working anonymous proxies they are everywhere ! But there is a single word missing here, a subtext to the question and that word is ‘free’
Free Working Anonymous Proxies
Now this is altogether a slightly different problem, the reason of course it’s so difficult is cost. Running a free anonymous proxy for everyone who wants, privacy, anonymity or simply to bypass restrictions based on their local firewalls and proxies – costs an awful lot of money. As anyone who has run a heavy bandwidth using web site knows it can get extremely expensive.
So the question is why would anyone supply anonymous proxies for free to total strangers? The answer may surprise you but it is that they don’t, I mean they don’t on purpose. Makes sense when you think about it, most people have other more fun ways to spend their money than supplying free anonymous proxies.
So where do these working proxies come from, well they’re either left open accidentally, or hacked and made into proxies and used and abused by the internet freeloaders society. The reason it’s difficult to find working proxies like this is that they usually fall over fairly soon or their owner realise what’s happen and pull the plug before they get even bigger bills from people surfing.
Ironically when they do pull the plug they actually have one of the most extensive logs of web searching about. Yes these servers have huge logs of everyone who has surfed through them, their IP addresses and every web site they visit. Enough to easily send bills out to each person although I don’t know of anyone doing it. It would make those people thing about their working anonymous proxies though if the surfers got a bandwidth bill from a systems administrator of a hacked server somewhere!
There have been lots of surveys and research into the growing menace of internet filtering. I say menace because although there are obviously web sites that nobody should encourage or even allow – filtering does very little to tackle the real issues behind these web sites.
Casually blocking and pretending these sites don’t exist is not the way problems are solved, and the huge irony is that the people who do wish to access criminal sites will almost certainly be able to use the various work arounds that are available. In effect Internet filtering usually ends up filtering people who have no intention of visiting these sites in the first place – in essence an exercise of futility. Whilst the filtered site grow and flourish away from the eyes of governments and states who are best placed to make more direct action against them.
What has also somewhat lagged behind the increases of filtering our internet access is awareness of the practices. The internet is increasingly part of all our lives and the idea that what we are allowed to access is being decided on by our governments is not very popular.
At the very core of this change, is what is specifically monitored, our internet identity if you like – the IP address of our connection. This is linked specifically to our location, and is what is used to track, monitor and filter what we see, and who keeps a record. Obviously it’s not unique to an individual, but it is linked to the person who pays the ISP or cable bill – if you pay the bills then it’s linked to you. Which is why all across the world, people are being incorrectly sued, jailed or monitored because someone else is using their IP address either legitimately or via other means.
Your IP address is your identity online and if you value your privacy it’s essential that you take steps from it being recorded and logged by every site you visit and by which ever intelligence agency wants access to it – that’s most of them. Here’s one way to hide your IP address from all these people.
This can effectively change the way you use the internet. Not only will you stop an entire list of everything you do online being created at your ISP (yes everything!), but you will also be able to bypass the various commercial based filtering that blocks you from accessing sites based on your location. So you can then watch the BBC from outside the UK, Hulu from outside the US and lots of other fun sites that your location might stop you viewing.
It’s actually quite frustrating, all the incredible media sites that are available online like Hulu, Pandora, BBC and NBC to name but a few but most people can only access a fraction of them. The culprit is a technology called geotargeting which controls what we have access to online.
Geotargeting works in quite a simple way, when we connect to the internet our IP address is readily available to every web site we visit. This IP address can be used to locate our exact geographical position and that’s what many web sites do. When we connect to a site they look up in a database where the IP address is registered to and this determines what content we see.
In many instances this is quite beneficial, for instance the search engines use this technology to give us relevant results to our queries. When we type in a search query, the results are tailored to our actual position – meaning if we search for an electrician we will get local results rather than ones in a different continent.
The other effects of geotargeting are not so useful, American users get blocked from online casino sites due to their laws on gambling, media sites restrict access to local audiences due to licensing issues. You’ll not get blocked when accessing web sites based in the same country, but you will if you accessing from a different one. People who emigrate or spend a lot of time outside their own country are especially affected, I travel a lot and when I’m away from home I can’t access the BBC Iplayer abroad for example.
This video may help –
The only way to access these sites is to disguise your IP address, you can do this in two main ways. The first is to use a proxy server – this is a server that sits between you and the website you visit forwarding requests as required. The benefit of this is the web servers only registers the proxy server address not yours. Many of the media sites like Hulu and NBC though will block this access and you will need to connect through a VPN (virtual provate network) . There’s loads of information online about these workarounds, so just check online for a solution.
We shouldn’t need it but I’m afraid we seem to live in a world where privacy is no longer guaranteed. It’s a lot to do how the internet has developed (of course it’s also the way society has developed too!) – in that I mean technically. HTTP is the core of internet communication. Unfortunately it’s also completely insecure and transports all our data in clear text.
That’s how it sits at your local ISP, in their logs – your internet diary, every move you have made online for the last two years. Governments, agencies routinely use this information in their various enquiries. Ask me again if you need something to maintain your privacy then !
Do we need online privacy protection software when we’re online ?
The problem with most media sites is that they look at your IP address before deciding what you can watch online. More accurately they look at WHERE your IP address is registered to. This can cause loads of problems trying for instance to watch UK Television in the USA or accessing sites across geographic areas, even though this is the internet! Some sites like search engines use this in a helpful way to tailor your search results, so that you don’t end up with a plumber who lives on the other side of the planet when you type “local plumber” into Google.
So that’s fine but unfortunately that’s about the only plus point. More often it’s used to block access so if you want to watch US TV stations online from Europe or UK TV in the US then you’ll be out of luck.
You’ll get the same sort of thing if you try and access NBC, ABC, Hulu or even Pandora from anywhere outside the USA. It can get really annoying especially if you travel a lot and find yourself blocked from your favorite sites just because you happen to be in a different country briefly.
Fortunately it is possible to bypass these blocks, in fact a whole little mini industry has built up into allowing unfettered access to these sites.
So How do You Watch British TV in the US?
Well just to take this for an example, although the same applies to nearly every single media site on the planet. We’ll just use Identity Cloaker to access the BBC to illustrate. The trick is to fool the web site into thinking your in the United Kingdom. This can be done by connecting via a proxy server which hides your IP address.
This is the little front end of Identity Cloaker which gives you access to the proxy server. The important thing to remember is to click a UK one as that will give you a UK IP address. In this screen you scroll down and look for a UK server that has the quickest speed to your relative location. You can also access sites in the USA, France, Germany, Canada, Netherlands and a few more countries just by picking the correct flags.
This will then allow you to reconnect to the BBC web site and allow you to watch the UK TV stations from anywhere in the world. One of the advantages of using Identity Cloaker is that it is very easy to use, you don’t have to set up these connections manually as most of the companies do.
Anyway if you want to see it demonstrated – here’s a short video (sorry about the quality!)
It’s also available on YouTube entitled – BBC Iplayer USA, I hope people find it useful.
Unfortunately now, a lot of the sites won’t work with just a proxy server – although currently the most popular one the BBC works fine. Many sites you’ll need to connect using something called a VPN (Virtual Private Network). All sounds a bit complicated but it’s not really – but first check this next paragraph
STOP – If you travel with work and connect back to your office using some connection icon, there’s a very good chance you are already using a VPN maybe to access your email system. So if you’re working for a company in the UK just connect back to this and then try and access the BBC whilst you’re connected. Same goes for any other country, if you connect to your base first you should have an IP address from that country. Bigger companies have VPNs in lots of countries so check with your IT department first – might save yourself some money!
Anyway if you’re not lucky enough to have a work server to connect to, here’s the Identity Cloaker VPN mode –
Just click the button and it allows you to login via a VPN. The major difference being that all your traffic is funnelled down an encrypted tunnel and so is much more difficult for the web sites to detect. There are a few UK TV stations that need this mode like Channel 4, Channel 5 and RTE player (this one you need to use the Irish server though)
So there you go that’s how you can watch UK TV in any country at all, your location doesn’t matter. There’s loads of services out there now, but I really can recommend Identity Cloaker, they’ve been around a few years and don’t charge per server like most of the companies. There’s a very cheap trial for 10 days for a few dollars here – Identity Cloaker 10 day trial – try it first to see how it works for you.