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Is VPN legal? The simple and the most accurate answer is yes, VPN is legal in most countries as long as you’re not using it for illegal activities. So, if you are only interested in protecting your privacy and surfing the web safe and without any restrictions, go ahead, you have nothing to worry about.
Of course, it goes without saying that committing crimes while you hide behind a VPN is also a felony and could get you in trouble. Most VPN service providers are definitely against some illegal activities and they clearly state that in their license agreements:
But let’s take a closer look at some regulations in different countries and their take on using VPN, online privacy and censorship. In the vast majority of the countries VPN is perfectly legal and can be used, except for committing crimes, without any restriction. Unfortunately there are countries where VPN is illegal, or at least blocked.
Definitely yes. In United States VPN is considered a legitimate service used by companies to protect their data traffic, by students for accessing content without the restriction imposed by universities, by software developers and marketing researchers to conduct analyses about potential customers from other geographical regions and by all means by regular persons interested in online privacy and safe browsing.
Yes, United Kingdom is one of the many countries where the answer to the question “Are VPNs legal?” is positive. In fact the situation is very similar with USA and other states where there is no ruling against protecting your privacy with a VPN, but it’s against the law to use this service for hiding criminal activities.
Well, answering to this question takes us to the dark lands of actual censorship. No, VPN services that are not approved by the government are no longer legal in this country and they are actively blocked by the authorities. In the past they were previous attempts to make VPN difficult to use, but this time they meant business and it’s practically impossible.
“Iranian authorities have blocked the use of most virtual private networks, a tool that many Iranians use to get around an extensive government Internet filter.”
To answer the question “Is VPN legal”, an Iranian internet user declares: “VPNs are cut off. They’ve shut all the ports“. He also said that Skype and Viber, internet services used to make telephone calls, had also been blocked.
Unfortunately we have to mark another “Yes” to answer the question is VPN illegal in this country? As we learned from the Vice publication the Turkish information technologies and communications authority, or BTK, ordered internet providers in the country to block Tor and also VPNs. After the military coup that happened on 15 July 2016, President Erdogan’s government accused VPN user of participating in coordination of the coordination of violent events that took place. According to TurkeyBlocks, on 4 November the government suddenly enforced a total blackout on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. In addition, it has also been confirmed that messaging services such as WhatsApp and Skype were blocked, leaving Turkish people with fewer options for communicating online.
Talking about China’s situation it’s a little bit like walking on thin ice because they constantly change their approach on online freedom and usually is for the worse. Until recently, VPN networks were allowed, not necessarily for citizens’ benefit but because foreign investors needed a safe traffic for their data. But things changed a few months ago when the Chinese government decided to forbid the vast majority of local VPN networks. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) issued a notice saying that all special cable and VPN services are obligated to acquire prior government approval. Obviously the statement was just another way of saying that the resident virtual private networks were declared illegal as it was hard to believe that any of the local VPNs would get such an approval. Also, at this moment, there are a lot of important websites and platforms that are blocked by the Chinese authorities: Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are among them. The only good news about online freedom comes from external sources. The VPN providers outside the Chinese borders are still delivering their services into the country, as they are impossible to control or to be influenced by Chinese laws.
Although there is no specific law that targets directly VPN, there’s plenty of UAE regulations that make VPN almost useless when it comes to online privacy.
Let’s start with the Cyber Crimes law that ruled a very clear usage interdiction of VPN services. A new article from this 2012 bill states that anyone using a fraudulent IP address to commit a crime or prevent its discovery shall be punished by a prison sentence, a fine or both. This mention relates to anyone who uses a VPN to commit crimes outlined in this law, as Humaid Aldarmaki, of the Abu Dhabi Public Prosecution Office declared. He further mentioned that:
“Is illegal to access calling apps or programs not permitted by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority or the countries’ two telecoms providers”, but “there is nothing that prevents the use of these apps if they were accessed without bypassing restrictions, and without having to use VPN or fraudulent IP addresses.”
Also, as Gulf Bussiness specifies:
“Using an information technology tool to “encourage, incite or promote sins” is considered a crime under Article 35 of the cybercrimes law. A service provider (not a user) supplying a regulated activity such as VoIP telephony (e.g. Skype) without a license is also illegal under the UAE telecommunications law.”
We strongly believe that accessing the Internet without any restrictions is, or should be, a basic human right. This right is, obviously, strongly connected with the freedom of speech, the possibility to be well informed, the right to privacy and the list continues. We think that any country that acts against all of this, acts against its own citizens and should be condemned. We can only hope that harsh measure, like blocking VPN services or making them illegal for censorship purposes will soon be a thing of the past.