Ted Kim is CEO of London Trust Media, which owns Private Internet Access (PIA). Ted has been kind enough to answer some interview questions from me.
How did you come to run a VPN company?
I met Andrew Lee, the Chairman and one of the founders of PIA. As he described his business to me, I was immediately fascinated, although I wondered how much I could really help him. Over time, I got to know the company better, and held various roles in Marketing and Operations prior to being the CEO.
Private Internet Access has a well-established and enviable reputation for looking after its customers’ privacy. Why do you think privacy is so important?
We believe that privacy is a basic, inalienable human right that should be enjoyed by all people. I truly believe that there should be no fear of being surveilled, watched, or tracked by anyone or anything when we use the Internet. Back in the day, the most fundamental civil liberties used to be promised and guaranteed by government. Today, there are many threats, both external and internal, to those liberties, and by extension our privacy. These liberties are the foundation of our society, the same foundations that the free world is built upon – and we still should strive for them. Liberty, and thus privacy, needs to be fought for.
We fight for privacy because “Privacy is our policy.”
Given what we now know about NSA bulk surveillance, the US government’s widespread use of National Security Letters with gag orders attached, Technical Assistance Orders, etc., etc., do you consider the United States to be a good place for privacy (with reference to both US and non-US citizens)?
Despite the recent concerns about government surveillance, the United States is still a country with a constitutionally recognized right to privacy, including the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution that can be enforced in the court system.
I understand that you hold a Juris Doctor degree in Law. Has this ever come in handy for defending the privacy of Private Internet Access customers?
Going to law school and being a lawyer provided greater insight into Constitutional Law and our fundamental civil liberties. If anything, PIA’s focus on privacy has reinforced how critical it is for us as individuals to defend our fundamental rights.
Last year PIA pulled out of Russia because the laws there mean that you cannot not guarantee the privacy of customers using VPN servers located in that country. “The UK has just legalized the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy” (Edward Snowden).
The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 gives the UK government powers to demand that VPN companies keep detailed logs that must be handed over on demand. If these powers are used (as seems likely), will Private Internet Access also pull out the UK?
As stated in our official response when the Snooper’s Charter legislation passed, Private Internet Access is closely watching the situation, and is prepared to pull out of the UK. While the IP Act gives the UK government powers to demand that UK VPN companies keep detailed logs for many months, non-UK VPN companies like ourselves do not need to comply.
Using a VPN is a great way to help stay private while online. What else do you think everyone should do to improve their online privacy?
Strong passwords are the simplest way for the average person to improve their online privacy, and for free!
What do you see, in these uncertain times, as the greatest challenges facing those of us who care about privacy?
The greatest challenge to privacy, even in current times and with the amount of mass surveillance that has been recently revealed, is that people become complacent and just stop caring that their privacy is being violated from all sides on a constant basis.
What are main areas on which PIA is concentrating now as a business, and what your plans going forward?
Private Internet Access is actively concentrating on increasing privacy awareness and activism on a global level. We are also focusing on improving our customer support team on feedback from our customers.
If you were washed up on a desert island, what item and which well-known public figure (alive or dead) would you most like washed up with? Why?
Albert Einstein and a chalkboard - for education.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me!