Proxy servers are intermediaries between the internet servers and the end users of a network. In order to do this, the proxy server encrypts your IP address, as it sends and receives data on your behalf.
Yes, proxy servers are legal. They provide various levels of functionality ranging from security to privacy depending on your use case, needs, or company policy. The only instance where the use of a proxy server would be considered illegal- is if you are using it to stream content that users usually pay for; for free. If you have not paid for access to the content and use a proxy server to access it, then you are using it illegally. However, all things considered, proxy servers on their own are legal.
A proxy server is like a computer on the World Wide Web (www) that has its own IP address that your computer knows. When you send a web request, your request goes to the proxy server first. The proxy server then makes your web request on your behalf, collects the response from the web server, and forwards you the web page data so you can see the page in your browser.
How do proxy servers work?
A proxy is anything or anyone that has been given power to act on something on behalf of another entity. A proxy server generally does the same.
When the proxy server forwards your web requests, it can make changes to the data you send and still get you the information that you desire to see.
This server can change your IP address, so that the web server does not know your exact location in the world. It can also encrypt your data, to ensure that your data cannot be read while in transit. This is the privacy function of the proxy server.
Lastly, a proxy server can block access to certain web pages, based on IP address. This is a good feature as it protects you from malicious external sites that collect your information.
Other benefits of having a Proxy Server
Private browsing, watching, listening, and shopping
Proxies help you avoid getting overwhelmed by numerous ads and pop-ups. They can control the data that comes in and out of your network. The proxy will block any form of private data collection specific to your IP.
If you ever want or decide to remain anonymous online for whatever reason, using a proxy is the best option. Many users prefer that their IP, and therefore their identity, remain hidden.
Access to location-specific content
Since the proxy can change your IP address, which shows your location on the internet, it gives you the freedom to access information found in another geographical location- by making it appear as if you are in that location (even when you are not). This way you get to interact with information that other computers within that area are getting too.
Prevent employees from browsing inappropriate or distracting sites
Organizations and institutions such as schools use proxy servers to block access to sites that either go against their values, or distract the employees/ students from working on important tasks.
The proxy blocks the access from within the network such that- if you are connected to the network, then you cannot access these sites. However, if you use your data, a hotspot or a different network, you can access the same sites.
Some organizations block social media sites from their network to avoid having distracted employees or students.
Bandwidth savings and improved speeds
Proxy servers contain caching techniques integrated within them. This is to save a copy of the website locally into files known as caches. Caches make it possible to copy any objects requested on sites to the server. This way, other users from the same network can access the same website; there is no need to proceed with a new request, since the data is already stored in the proxy.
Organizations can therefore obtain better overall network performance with a good proxy server. This simple act of caching saves bandwidth for the company and improves the network performance.
When international companies create websites, they like to customize the content and accessibility according to the regions that the users are viewing them from. They use proxy servers to detect the locations of the visitors to the website, and then provide the information relevant to their specific market.
Disadvantages of Proxy servers
Your proxy and network are two separate entities whose configurations vary. In some cases, their configurations may be incompatible. In which case you may have to manually configure them until they match, or find one that is already compatible.
Proxy caches store data such as passwords and other sensitive information. This is dangerous if someone with malicious intent within the proxy breaches and sells that information. The servers protect people from external sites, but there is a possibility of internal mishandling of personal user information.
It is therefore important to take note of their data policies to understand how they handle your personal data, before choosing a proxy server.
Good Practice for Using Proxies Legally
Before you use a proxy server, read the terms and conditions of the website you wish to visit.
In summary, proxies are legal or illegal if:
If your country laws and policies allow the use of proxy networks
If the laws of your country prohibit use of proxy servers
If you are using it for genuine purpose
If you are using it to bypass blocked sites, especially for malicious intent
If you are streaming content you have paid for
If you are streaming content you have not paid for; for free.
Proxy servers are indeed legal and beneficial in many ways. Ensure that you get one from a reliable Internet Service Provider to save yourself from challenges such as incompatibility and data theft.
Are proxy servers free?
There are plenty of free servers online. If you want a premium proxy package such as for organizations and institutions, you will require to pay for quality.
Is it ethical to use proxy servers?
Yes, if you are following ethical standards, and your proxy server provider is ethical, then there is nothing to worry about.