Using the Internet in Turkey
What you need to know:
Law 5651 as amended February 2014 provides for some of the strictest censorship and monitoring of users in the world. If you visit or live in Turkey and want to use the internet, Law 5651 will affect you!
Under the law Internet Service Providers (ISP's) are required to monitor, in real time, everything users do and save that data for two years. Websites visited, web searches, forums, emails, Skype, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter etc. This is done by using advanced Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) equipment similar that used in Iran and China.
If a user is accessing or communicating information deemed to be "insulting", access may be blocked to the site or your access to the internet terminated. In addition the law provides for the issuing of swinging new fines and in some cases imprisonment. There is no appeal.
For those who wish to read the actual details, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe issued a Briefing Paper on the proposed amendments in January. The Turkish Parliament adopted the bill in its entirety on 05 February 2014.
If you visit or live in Turkey you have 3 options:
- Don't use the internet.
- Use the internet with great care but don't expect to be able to access all websites.
- Use an encrypted VPN (Virtual Private Network).
(1) If "option 1" doesn't appeal to you, let's consider the other two.
(2) More than 40,000 websites are already blocked in Turkey and the number is growing. Access to any website can now be blocked from Turkey within 20 minutes and without a court order (ISP's are required to block acess within 4 hours of notification). The old method of bypassing blocks by changing the computer or routers DNS settings will no longer work, neither will proxy servers.
(3) Many people in countries with tight internet controls have taken to using VPN's to bypass content blocked by governments and ISP's and to protect their privacy on the internet. There is nothing illegal or shady about using a VPN's and they are pretty much a necessity for travellers these days as logging into your bank and other secure accounts from any public network is just asking for trouble.
If you don't know what a VPN is or how they work, Gizmodo.com gives a brief but good explanation.
If you scroll down the page a little it explains the 5 different protocols used for encryption and VPN tunnels, note the Secure Shell (SSH) protocol, this is what we recommend because PPTP is not the most secure and can be blocked at the press of a button by the ISP.
Choosing a VPN service:
There are hundreds of providers offering VPN services. I have spent countless hours researching and testing to find which one(s) are the best suited for use in Turkey and Europe.
My requirements were:
- Uptime - A service that doesn't work is neither use nor ornament.
- Speed - The internet is slow enough in my area, I don't want a VPN slowing it down even more.
- Price - Free or cheap, I'm not made of money.
- Multiple Gateways - I might want to access restricted internet TV in UK or USA which would require an IP address in those countries.
- SSH Encryption Options - As mentioned above.
- Privacy - I don't have anything to hide but I don't want to be tracked by Google or anyone else.
Here's what I learned:
- Don't use a free VPN - They are either very slow, bombard you with advertising, track you themselves or worse still "Honey-pots" set up to steal your passwords or covertly install undesirable programs on your machine.
- Read the small print - Some look good at first glance until you discover you have to pay extra for your needs.
- TOR will not do - Whist I have great respect for the "Onion Routing Project" it is just too slow and their network has been compromised too many times. Plus it does not provide my requirement #4.
So which service did I choose?
Well it's obvious isn't it, there's a banner link on the left. Private Internet Access are one of the big boys, they currently have 876 Servers in 10 Countries, thats important because using a gateway in a country far away will definitely slow down speeds. The service can be used on just about every device and operating system. They have great reviews from the internet community. Their Client Support Service is great and their prices are really cheap.
If you intend to visit Turkey for a short time and want to use your device to access your favourite websites, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Youtube etc. safely & securely, you could buy a one month subscription for just over £4 (about €5) and use up to Five devices on the one subscription. A whole year is only £24 odd (less than €30).