If you're in the United States or Europe, chances are that you use a virtual private network (VPNs) for pretty mundane reasons — an extra element of security, perhaps, or to watch videos online that can only be watched in certain countries.
If you're in China, however, VPN may be a crucial way to get around China's "Great Firewall" and access websites banned in the country, such as Twitter and Facebook. The use of VPNs is pretty much an open secret in the country, vital for international organizations to function, which authorities have refrained from actually shutting them down.
But that may be changing.
Today many of expats are freaking out about an article on China Digital Times which showed notices at a Business Center in the Shandong capital of Jinan (including one written by a mysterious and Orwellian-sounding "Jinan City Internet Monitoring Team”) that appear to ban the use of VPNs.
While there's no real suggestion that the ban would be countrywide, any mention of shutting down VPNs is enough for people to get seriously worried it is part of a wider trend:
Oh-oh. This kind of thing is scary. Are hotels going to start restricting VPN use? chinadigitaltimes.net/2012/11/notice…
— David Moser (@david__moser) November 28, 2012
chinadigitaltimes.net/2012/11/notice… If China really bans VPNs, will cause huge hassles for business...and exodus of college kids.
— Charlie Custer (@ChinaGeeks) November 28, 2012
More From Business Insider