Report: COVID-19 Pandemic Helped Spur the VPN Adoption

Half of the VPN users in the United States use it for anonymous browsing...

Hacking and Online Fraud

Discount searching website CouponFollow has recently released a neat report, highlighting consumers’ ever-growing interest in VPN services.

Before the pandemic, the site ran a survey to understand consumer security and privacy concerns, as well as VPN usage. Then, it re-ran part of the survey again in February 2021, focusing on VPN usage after witnessing spikes in VPN searches starting in 2020.

And here’s what they’ve found…

Americans are concerned over their privacy and security:

  • 69% of Americans are concerned about their personal data security from public Wi-Fi
  • 64% are concerned about data security when using the Internet at home
  • 65% worry their ISP might be sharing or selling their medical or financial data.

Americans usage of VPN

More than a third (35%) of Americans use a VPN:

  • Half of VPN users use it for anonymous browsing (49%)
  • 45% use a VPN for work
  • 21% use it for online shopping
  • 20% use a VPN for streaming films and TV shows
  • 14% use it to prevent the government from snooping
  • 12% for torrenting or peer-to-peer file sharing, and
  • 11% for gaming.

During 2020, VPN usage skyrocketed:

  • 12% first started using a VPN since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic began, and
  • 21% installed a VPN due to having to work from home last year.

What is VPN?

However, most Americans still don’t know what a VPN is:

  • 59% still don’t know what VPN stands for,
  • 28% falsely think a VPN will protect their device from viruses and malware, and
  • 19% believe a VPN gives them full anonymity online.

Americans have no problems paying for a VPN:

  • 82% of VPN users are very or somewhat satisfied with their VPN service provider
  • Of those who pay for their VPN, 52% have received a discounted price on their VPN subscription.

Online fraud and hacking remain a considerable problem for many Americans:

  • 35% of Americans had, or know someone who had their social media account hacked or hijacked
  • This stat jumps to 48% for the Millennial generation, who are spending more time online than any other age group.
  • A further 33% had, or know someone who had their password stolen, and
  • 52% of Millennials & Gen Z had this happen to them or someone they know.

Why Americans use a VPN

A majority of Americans are concerned about the security of their personal data and their privacy:

  • 69% are concerned about the security of their data when using public Wi-Fi, and
  • Nearly 64% are worried about it when using the Internet at home.
  • 77% of Millennials & Gen Z expressed these concerns – more than any other age group
  • Online privacy is a concern to 47% of Americans who are worried about their privacy when using public Wi-Fi
  • 30% worry about their privacy even when using the Internet in their homes.

However, using the Internet at work doesn’t seem to elicit the same level of concern:

  • Only 32% are worried about their security when in the office,
  • 18% are worried about their privacy when browsing the web from a work device.

Americans don’t trust their ISPs:

  • 65% think their ISP may be sharing or selling their medical or financial data,
  • 64% think their ISP may be sharing/selling data on their browsing activity, and
  • 63% think that will happen to their online shopping history.

Reasons for using a VPN in 2020

VPN usage is highest among men, of whom 47% use it compared to 28% of women. It’s also predictably higher with the younger generations, who are more likely to use a VPN (43% of Millennials & Gen Z vs. 41% of Gen X). What is rather surprising is that almost one in four Baby Boomers (24%) are VPN users.

More than half (51%) of our survey respondents who use a VPN report using it often, if not always — with Gen Xers being the keenest users (57%).

If there is one good thing about the COVID-19 pandemic, it is that one in 10 Americans found out about a VPN, and 11% started using it during that time.

For the first study, 1,666 US adults (18+) were surveyed on November 11, 2019. Additionally, a further survey of 1,834 US adults (18+) was carried out in February 2021. Missing and not applicable responses were excluded from analyses. Percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number.