Much as you might love Comcast, or Cox Communications, or even AOL; do you really want them to hand over your browsing history to any LEO who asks? Warrant or not!
If you have nothing to hide, but believe in Civil Liberties, then read on.
Oh, and if anything I say here allows you to escape the clutches of a certain US Broadcaster, and pick your own Olympic coverage, well I didn't tell you how!!!
This is going to be brief because the rest is very easy indeed. You just have to know where to look.
Virtual Private Networks have been around for many years. They were designed to allow the transmission of sensitive data from insecure locations, to corporate servers.
So the sales agent in the field could connect to Company Headquarters from a motel, etc.
They are also used for far more nefarious purposes, but that is true of many things, and does not negate the lawful pursuits of others.
Basically, a VPN connects your computer to a remote server, and makes a private "tunnel". Everything passing through the tunnel is encrypted during transit. The implication here is that the ISP you are using cannot track your internet activity, at all.
So, in my case my friendly ISP can see a connection to a server. That is all they can see. So when the thought police contact my ISP and ask nicely for my browsing history, what they will get is simply a list of times, and amount of traffic between my PC and a remote server that could be anywhere in the world. They cannot see where I have been or what I have done.
Crucially, the internet requests I make from that remote server have no idea where I originated the request. They do not know, and they can not know.
The system is as secure as the VPN provider that you use. We are not too concerned with the actual "privacy" bit, so we use a commercial provider. Our provider keeps server logs for one week, for maintenance and billing purposes. If I were a political activist in fear of my safety, I would use a service that didn't keep records at all, and there are plenty of them .... You can even set up your own.
Not only is the actual transmitted data kept private, but also the geographical location of the originating request. Proxy Servers do this latter bit too, but they are woefully limited in their scope, reliability, and they are blacklisted and shut down frequently.
There are many commercial VPN Services out there. I am not, in any way, a representative of any of them but for what it's worth, we use witopia.net. I'm not linking the company, you all can type :)
There are several levels of service, and at least two connection protocols that are used
All the details are in the FAQ, but we use the higher level of service. One of the advantages of buying both protocols is that you can also connect with a cell phone. That might be useful for some.
Set up is a breeze. Any decent provider will give full instructions, and once it is working you should have few problems.
So ... Google "VPN", examine a few of the offerings and pick the one you feel most comfortable with. We pay $65 per year and are happy with that. You can get "free" too, it's a matter for you.
This whole area of PC use seems a bit technical, a bit nerdy and scary for some. It isn't. It's a simple service that is very easy to use.
The company we use has servers all over the world, including many in the US. If your primary concern is security, then pick the closest server and you should get almost full speed downloading. As an example, we often use a UK server, and streaming speeds regualrly hit 10 mbits per second. To put that in context you need about 3.5 mbits per second to stream HDTV. The bandwidth can get restricted, usually due to one of the intermediate links in the chain. Re-connecting will normally fix that.
As far as I am aware, there are NO legal implications to using a Virtual Private Network. It is a simple and common business tool. What you do with it once you have it installed is entirely a matter for you. If you, for example, choose to watch geographically restricted output, then that is a choice you make.
er ... I am not a lawyer!
I have deliberately kept this brief and not technical. I feel confident that others, way more knowledgeable than I, will answer technical queries. On the other hand, I can do it so you can too. It's just not hard.