Myanmar’s internet freedom is in free fall in 2020.
Freedomhouse, a non-profit organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights degraded the score of Myanmar to 31/100 in 2020.
The year 2020 has been terrible for information freedom in Myanmar. Internet shutdown in the Rakhine and Chin States, the arbitrary block of hundreds of websites, the arrest of dissidents under the telecom law…
With elections taking place in November this year, the tension on the digital platforms is palpable. The government set up a squad team responsible for monitoring Facebook in search of hate speech and false information.
Since the liberalization of the telecom sector in 2013, telecom operators have worked hand in hand with the government to build telecom infrastructure all over the country, provide sustainably cost-effective Internet access to the population. The country caught up on internet penetration, speed, usage at lighting speed. Mobile internet penetration went from nothing to 40% in 7 years.
Why the need for a VPN
The overall purpose of a virtual private network (VPN) is to provide you online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network from a public internet connection.
Once the VPN client is activated, your Internet Service Provider is blind to your Internet activity. It cannot track or log the websites that you are visiting. A VPN client also allows you to browse Internet websites that are currently blocked in Myanmar such as Narinjara News, Justice for Myanmar, Mandalay In-Depth News, Mekong News, Voice of Myanmar, and Karen News.
It is important to state that when it comes to Facebook or any other social platform, a VPN client will not help you to remain anonymous. If you express your thoughts on Facebook and there is a way to link your account to your real identity, you put yourself at risk no matter if you use a VPN or not.
That being said, a VPN client is still a key element of your online privacy. But the selection of such a VPN client needs to be assessed cautiously.
Free VPN Client vs. Paid VPN Client
Browsing on Google Play Store, you will find a handful of free VPN services for you to choose from. And it could be really tempting to pick any of these. But not all the solutions are equal when it comes to respecting your privacy.
Some of the VPN software in the market log your information such as the websites you visit, the IP addresses you connect from, and the timestamps. It is unlikely that VPN companies decide to hand over your data to the Myanmar government. It is more probable that they sell your data to advertisers eager for segmented marketing.
ThebestVPN researches and publishes the complete list of VPN providers that track and log your data. And there are more than 100 of them! Among these, some very popular solutions such as Hola VPN, TurboVPN, McAfee Safe Connect, or Hotspot VPN. These solutions should be avoided at any cost if you care about your privacy.
ProtonVPN, the VPN provider that respects your privacy
Proton Technologies headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, a country known for having one of the strongest privacy laws in the world. Proton was created by a team of scientists and engineers by share a common vision of protecting civil liberties online. Their first product was ProtonMail, an encrypted mail service.
As of today, Proton protects more than 20M users across the world.
ProtonVPN is committed to not store any logs or push any ads to the end-user. The Swiss VPN client routes all traffic through -what they call- privacy-friendly countries such as Switzerland, Iceland, and Sweden.
ProtonVPN is built on critical infrastructure. For instance, in Switzerland, its data center is located in a former Swiss army shelter, 1000 meters below the surface. Similarly, in Iceland, ProtonVPN resides in a secure former military base. In Sweden, it is also located in an underground data center.
From a legal standpoint, Proton sits outside of US and EU jurisdiction, which could be also really important for Myanmar citizens. It means there is no legal recourse from the said governments to reclaim access to your data.
ProtonVPN is well equipped with all the top features that are crucial to your online privacy such as a KillSwitch, Tor over VPN capabilities, AES-256 Encryption, and DNS leak prevention.
ProtonVPN, a paid solution with a free version
There is no such thing as a free lunch. To build such a high-quality product and stay away from advertising or any indirect source of income, the VPN solution couldn’t be offered for free.
ProtonVPN still offers a free option which is still completely private. The free tier only gives you access to three VPN servers and does not support torrent and P2P service but it offers the same high standard of privacy and this is what matters the most.
In Myanmar, there is no need to use a VPN service to use P2P services as no one will ever prosecute you for downloading contents under copyright (today).
But the main purpose of using a VPN should be to protect your Internet browsing and help you access every website without any sort of censorship. To that regard, ProtonVPN free tier is the perfect fit for your needs and should be your favorite VPN solution in Myanmar.
If you don’t mind paying a little bit to get a better solution, ProtonVPN pricing ranges from $4 to $24 per month, the paid versions give you access to additional features such as P2P/BitTorrent support, Tor over VPN, and access to geo-blocked content such as Netflix or Amazon Prime.
Herbert is a nom de plume.
I am an experienced telecom professional blogging about the fastest growing Internet market in the world: Myanmar.