May 28, 2024


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TOP 10 events that sparked people’s need for privacy tools in 2020

Azerbaijan, Hong Kong, and Turkey were the top three countries to register huge spikes in VPN demand

December 21, 2020. In 2020, spikes in the demand for online privacy was monumental, research based on interest in the NordVPN service shows. New legislations, government control, civil unrest, and political destabilization is being met with digital dissidence this year.

“2020 has been turbulent in many ways. Including attempts to restrict the free internet. This year alone, NordVPN received 7,254 emergency VPN access requests from journalists and activists. This is 10 times more than a year ago. Most of the requests came from Hong Kong, but we also received requests from Iran, Kashmere, Burma, and other countries with strict internet censorship and heavy surveillance. Not to mention the people who got affected by the bans and sought solutions to protect their online identities,” says Laura Tyrell, Head of PR at NordVPN.

ProPrivacy Digital Privacy Researcher Attila Tomaschek believes that VPNs have become a crucial tool for those wishing to maintain their digital freedom in a tumultuous year. “We’ve seen multiple instances this year where governments have taken action to exert control over their citizens both online and in person, typically under the guise of national security, public health or upholding morality.”

The top ten instances of VPN demand spikes this year show the scale of the spike compared to the previous day and explain its social and political background.

Countries where people, responding to events around them, rushed to protect their online presence the most this year.



Increase overnight



September 29


Restriction of internet access

Hong Kong

May 22


Introduction of the Chinese security law


June 26


Social media restrictions


August 10


Internet outages following rigged election


September 25


Implementation of the Brazilian data protection law

South Korea

January 29


Five Eyes expands to include South Korea


November 2


Ban on Pornhub (and other adult sites)


November 23


Update of data privacy and copyright laws


March 26


Internet throttling by the government


August 7


Announcement of a potential TikTok ban

The most significant uplift of interest in NordVPN online privacy tools was registered in Azerbaijan. After the government restricted major online communications platforms, 148 times more people rushed looking for the cure to the problem.

Immediately following Beijing’s introduction of a new security law that effectively signalled an end to the autonomy of Hong Kong, 120 times more people came looking for an online privacy tool that could help them to maintain online communication from the censoring eye.

Finally, the night after the Turkish government announced its plan to block social media platforms and VPN services, 19 times more Turks came looking for ways to circumvent the censorship.

“More and more we are seeing that informed citizens across the globe are using technology to push back. This is evidenced by the massive spikes we saw in VPN usage immediately following government efforts to censor online content or even shut down online communication entirely,” adds Attila Tomaschek.

VPNs can be used for many things, but, most importantly, VPNs are a crucial tool that citizens can use to secure their digital privacy, bypass censorship efforts, and preserve their human rights and freedom of expression in the face of government oppression.

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