The continued spread of COVID-19 has revolutionized the way many people shop. Physical stores have become too risky to go to, some countries have completely locked down their major cities, and some businesses have either run out of business or closed temporarily until the virus is contained. As a result of all that, many people have been forced to order essential products online.
Without a doubt, there are numerous advantages and benefits of ordering products online compared, for example, gifts like a personalized ring for your girlfriend and sending them by mail as a surprise, rather than going to the store and wasting your time. For starters, here are the two most impactful benefits:
Convenience. You can shop online any day at any time from the comfort of your home. You don’t need to worry about the crazy traffic to and from the mall, hustling for parking at the mall, or bumping shoulders with other shoppers in a crowded grocery store. Online shopping has no queuing, no moody cashiers to deal with, and no heavy luggage. You get everything you need delivered to your doorsteps.
More variety. You are spoilt of choices when shopping online. International brands that you can’t find anywhere around your town, you will find them online. You will find the best of everything you need without spending a dime on air tickets.
But as convenient as shopping online could be, you need to be careful not to be scammed or spied on when doing it. You need to be invisible when ordering online because the web is constantly profiling, tracking, and analyzing your online activity, both for good and not-so-good reasons. One way of protecting your identity when ordering online is by using a VPN.
What is a VPN?
A VPN, or virtual private network, is a network that encrypts the internet traffic that comes from your network, sends it through a remotely located intermediary server, and consequently masks your IP address from trackers and spies. VPNs keep web users private so that no unauthorized third parties can see what a user is doing online
Someone would ask: Is it really necessary to be invisible when shopping online? What is the worst that can happen? Well, here are 4 answers to your questions:
1. Risk of fraud
Online shopping is plagued by credit card scams, cases of identity theft, phishing, counterfeit products, among other frauds. There are many bogus websites that will coerce you into joining their mailing lists; lists that you will never be able to unsubscribe from. Others want to advertise their counterfeit products to you. If you don’t like to be bothered by such ads, your best bet is browsing anonymously when placing your online orders.
2. Avoiding personalized interest-based ads
If you recently shopped for sportswear online, you’ll constantly see ads for sportswear every time you open your browser or social media newsfeed. The same case happens when you scroll through a list of tech gadgets or cars. The ads pop up in the margins of your browser, sometimes slowing down the sites you are loading.
You can’t ignore them because they keep coming back even after you cancel one. But is it a coincidence that advertisers know the kind of items to target you with? Absolutely not! You are just a victim of interest-based advertising. Those personalized and targeted ads use information gathered through your online activity. That is why Facebook knows what interests you on Amazon. Your only escape plan is blocking out any algorithm designed to gather information on your shopping behavior.
3. Keeping the government from spying on you
WikiLeaks has alleged in several exposes that the Central Intelligence Agency spies on people’s online activity and uses the information they gather to create a database which they then use to silence their “enemies”. While WikiLeaks cannot be quoted as a reliable source, there is no reason why you should ignore their dossiers in their entirety. There is no shame in being careful.
4. Might save you money
It is no longer cool to give up your data when accessing any internet services, whether you are shopping or just having fun. You never know who is watching or how they will use your personal data in the future.