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Indonesia tops hidden internet use

News, 31 March 2016

SINGAPORE/LONDON: Indonesians lead the world for virtual private network (VPN) usage, according to a survey of 200,000 internet users in 34 countries.

GlobalWebIndex, a London-based research firm, found that 41% of Indonesian internet users rely on VPN, which is a markedly higher rate than in some European countries, such as the UK (16%) or The Netherlands (14%), tech portal e27 reported.

However, many other Asian countries have relatively high rates too, including Thailand (39%), Vietnam (35%), India (33%), Taiwan (33%), Malaysia (32%), China (29%) and Hong Kong (29%). The global average is 25%.

"People consider VPNs to be a niche tool, but they are surprisingly widespread. As many as one in four people use them," said Jason Mander, head of trends at GlobalWebIndex, in comments originally reported by Wired.

"In some countries, China, Indonesia and Thailand being prime examples, people use VPNs to overcome governmental restrictions on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

"In Western Europe, privacy is the biggest factor. But by far the most popular one globally is the need to access [geographically blocked] entertainment content."

Consumers frequently use VPNs to protect their online activity and identity. While some welcome the security and privacy the networks provide, others use them as a way to circumvent ISPs and service providers that block certain websites.

Looking at the survey results for Asia, it would appear that internet users in the region are using VPNs to access entertainment and news sites that the authorities would prefer to block.

For example, Indonesia's state-owned telecoms operator, Telkom, recently blocked access to US streaming service Netflix while Vietnam blocks Facebook.

It is also clear that some countries in the region are keen to restrict access to certain news sites, but there are less authoritarian motives at play in other nations, such as Singapore, which seeks to block access to file-sharing sites like The Pirate Bay.

Data sourced from e27, Wired; additional content by Warc staff