Last Updated on July 12, 2019 by Husain Parvez
Looking to unlock the power of the internet but concerned that are VPNs legal to use in your region? Here’s everything there is to know about the countries that allow the use of VPN, and regions where it is restricted by the government, or banned entirely.
During the early days of the World Wide Web when the network infrastructure was not yet as abundant as it is today, there was more freedom offered to users too. From being able to connect to services across country lines, to be able to access websites freely, the openness of the internet certainly has been disrupted as the number of users has skyrocketed to billions over the past couple of decades. However, the fight to keep the essence of the internet alive and been fueled by virtual private networks (VPNs), offering way to access any part of the World Wide Web freely, while keeping things private and confidential.
Whether you’re trying to access a website that has been restricted by your ISP (Internet Service Provider), or just want to enjoy an international version of Netflix with all of its extra content, a VPN is the way to go. But over the years, even VPNs, which were designed to be a beacon of privacy and security, have been perverted into being used as tools of malicious activities all across the world. The restrictions put forward by certain regional authorities can make you wonder are VPNs legal to use in the first place, which is why we’re here to help it break it all down for you.
Are VPNs Legal or Illegal?
It is estimated that around 1 on 4 people all around the world use a VPN service to secure their online browsing experience for different purposes. What was once the brainchild of a Microsoft chief engineer, today stands as the evolutionary technology that not only allows users to go around the internet anonymously, but barricade their privacy as well. VPNs have been used for decades by corporate entities and government organizations to secure their network services, and in the past decade, has become commercially available to individuals.
The fact of the matter is that VPNs are legal to use in most of the major countries all around the world, and is acceptable to federal authorities. Using a VPN is around 196 countries is completely legal. This includes the major superpowers such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada, India, Germany, Japan, and several others. However, there are certain countries that either restricted the use of VPNs partially, or have straight up made virtual private network illegal to use all across the region.
Where are VPNs Illegal and Why?
The core purpose of a VPN is to offer security, bolster privacy, and yet, grant complete and unrestricted access the World Wide Web. While the theory behind the service is a force for good, it hasn’t curbed the use of VPNs for a slew of illegal and immoral activities across the world. Unlawful and fraudulent use of a service that allows you to become untraceable and anonymous on the internet can wreak havoc on unsuspecting users.
The unethical use of such as service has been a concern for federal authorities worldwide, which is the reason users are compelled to ask are VPNs legal to use in the first place. However, most countries continue to allow the use of VPN services, with the regard of user freedom, but this does not apply to countries that have a sketchy record when it comes to human rights in the first place. A total of 11 countries have either explicitly banned the use of VPNs, or allow only government-approved VPN services for individual use.
Government-controlled VPN usage
- China – Setting up a dedicated cross-border line of communication requires direct consent of the Chinese government. Individuals caught accessing VPN services can be fined up to 15,000 Yuan (approximately $2,200).
- Russia – Under the guise of restricting “extremist materials” through social media, Russia blocks the access to VPN services and also imposes a fine of 300,000 RUB ($51,00) on the individual user, and an additional 700,000 RUB ($12,000) on the VPN service provider.
- Iran – The government-approved VPN services by the judiciary service in Iran are still subject to surveillance by the government, which defeats the purpose of having a VPN service.
- United Arab Emirates – Although the United Arab Emirates does not restrict corporations and institutions from using VPN services, individuals are barred from using VPN services to maximize the profitability of the government-owned telecommunication services. Fraudulent use of a VPN service is, however, a chargeable offence with can land you in custody or with a fine of $544,000.
- Oman – VPN services are restricted to curb the use of VOIP for communication and for users outside the Sultanate of Oman to be able to use the online services provided within the region only. A fine of 500 Omani Rial ($1,300) on individuals and 1,000 Omani Rial ($2,600) can be imposed upon unauthorized usage.
- Turkey – The government has imposed strict censorship on the content available for viewing to the users, but with no legal fines put forward.
Regions with VPN ban
- Iraq – In an order to keep the extremist propaganda by groups such as ISIS from spreading among the common population through social media, Iraqi government has outright banned the use of VPN services.
- Turkmenistan – For political reasons and to keep the coverage of foreign media away from the citizens, Turkmenistan’s one and only ISP is government-owned and filters out the content that the users have access to.
- Belarus – The government feels strongly about how services like Tor and VPNs can lead to an increase in online criminal activity, thus enforcing a complete ban all across the country.
- North Korea – Although a minuscule amount of users in North Korea have access to its version of the internet called “Kwangmyong” in the first place, usage of VPNs is entirely banned under the oppressive regime.
- Uganda – After the use of social media was made taxable by the Ugandan government, citizens turned to VPN services, which sparked the ban on the services and was mandated by the authorities on all ISPs.
Just because the country that you reside in has not barricaded your access to the internet, does not mean that you don’t need a VPN service. From restricting access to websites from foreign adversaries, to keeping a tab on citizens through unprecedented measures of surveillance, there are plenty of ways the federal authorities are attacking your right to access the World Wide Web with complete freedom.
Even if you do choose a VPN service, it isn’t guaranteed that your online browsing sessions are not being monitored by the ISP or by high authorities, such as the NSA in the United States. Since certain VPN service providers choose to log the user browsing history and can cough up these details to the federal authorities upon request, just plugging into any VPN service won’t cut it. This is why we recommend using ExpressVPN, which guarantees to log no user information, is backed by the highest standards in encryption, and offers hundreds of servers scattered all across the world.
ExpressVPN covers 90+ countries – If you’re looking to access the local or national websites of a country far away, ExpressVPN has got you covered. With more than 160 server locations established in a total of 94 countries, you can spoof your IP address to appear from any of the enlisted countries, choose among 160+ different server locations, and get the fastest transfer speeds going.
Unlock entertainment content – For those who just want to take a look at the catalog of movies and TV shows that Netflix offers outside of your country of residence, or wish to try out services such as BBC iPlayer which is not available to residents outside of the UK, enabling ExpressVPN grants you access to a world of entertainment that you are yet to discover.
ExpressVPN on all devices – Whether you want to set up the VPN service on your mobile phone to make VOIP calls and go under the detection radar, or wish to unlock the power of Kodi with ExpressVPN, there’s an app to do it. You get support for all of the popular platforms such as Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS, Android, and even VPN-enabled routers.
Keeping you secure – To keep your online activities private and away from the prying eyes of your ISP, the government, and especially hackers, ExpressVPN has the highly strengthened 256-bit encryption in place. Since your IP address is hidden, your location and your identity are also safeguarded for complete anonymity.
While federal authorities tend to look at VPN services as a means for individuals to bypass necessary restrictions, the mainstream user only looks at it as a way to reclaim the core of what the World Wide Web was initially created for. As a means to connect the world, you cannot deny the fact that there are plenty of ways the resourcefulness of a VPN service can be amalgamated by those with malicious intent. The question of are VPNs legal has been answered in the list above, and the regions where it is restricted or banned, have been detailed as well.
Are you a resident of the countries where using VPN is a rite of passage, or are you among those who could land in trouble if caught communicated to a virtual private network? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.
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