Since you’re here and asking yourself “are VPNs legal?”, it would be safe to assume that you already know what a VPN is and what it does. But on the off chance you don’t, allow me to quickly clarify.
It allows you to keep your IP address hidden while browsing the web, to hide your real location and even make certain websites believe you are visiting them from another country than your own.
A VPN will allow you to bypass most geo-restrictions and firewall blocks.
On top of this, it encrypts all the data you send and receive while connected to the VPN server, making your browsing a lot safer and much more private.
By doing so much for the internet users’ privacy and by allowing them to move online freely and anonymously to a certain extent, VPNs have a bit of a bad reputation.
In the past, they have been associated with people who wanted to stay anonymous for all the wrong reasons, but things have changed in recent years.
With the ever-growing concern about privacy, more people with no bad intentions have started using VPNs to stop ISPs, websites and apps from collecting and using their data.
Leaving the reputation aside, the VPN’s legality is a totally different story. Let’s dive into that a bit.
As much as I would like to give you a definitive answer, the truth is that it depends. Mainly it depends on where you are and where you use the VPN from. While the vast majority of countries don’t have a no-VPN policy, there are some exceptions. We’ll get into that a bit later.
An important aspect of the VPN’s legality, besides your location and the laws you need to obey there, is what you’re using it for.
While using a VPN in itself to protect your privacy isn’t illegal in most countries, if the online activity you are trying to hide is illegal, then you could be charged with a crime or cybercrime.
You should always obey the laws in the country you are in, and never think that doing something illegal online while connected to a VPN is foolproof.
Let’s go into a bit more detail.
As of July 2021 when this article is written, there are no laws in the USA prohibiting the use of VPNs in the United States of America. So, the quick answer is no, VPNs are not illegal in the US.
Using a VPN to protect your privacy online or to bypass certain geo-restrictions is completely within the law in the US. And if you live in the USA, there’s a couple of very good reasons to always use the Internet while connected to a VPN.
An important thing to remember when answering the question “is using a VPN illegal?” is that while VPNs are legal in the United States, doing any illegal activities while connected to a VPN remains illegal.
VPNs do offer a certain degree of anonymity and are not illegal in the USA, as long as you use them for legitimate reasons. Shady activities remain unlawful and you could end up in jail despite the fact that you are using a VPN.
The short answer, like in the case of the United States, is yes. VPNs are legal in the UK. There are no laws to forbid subscribing to any VPN providers and using them to protect your privacy and enhance your online security.
Moreover, there isn’t a single piece of legislation to stop you from using VPNs to bypass geo-restrictions either.
Whether you’re trying to access a website that is not available in the UK or trying to access online platforms which are blocked by your workplace or school’s firewall, you can legally do so by using a VPN.
As long as you do not carry out any illegal activities online, there’s no reason to worry about VPN legality.
As long as you don’t do anything illegal online (and I can’t stress that enough), protecting yourself online from the prying eyes of your ISP and government agencies is completely legal.
You should always keep in mind that, in the UK, VPN providers can be obligated through warrants or court orders to divulge information about your online activities.
If you want to be extra-safe, the best course of action would be to choose a VPN provider who keeps no activity logs.
With 44 countries, Europe is the third most populated continent in the world. Even though most of those are under democratic regimes and are pretty liberal, it’s still worth taking a closer look at some of the countries independently.
VPNs are not illegal in Germany. There are no VPN laws forbidding the use of this amazing tool.
It’s a well-known fact that Germans take great care in protecting their privacy online and offline. They are private people by their nature and never appreciate the thought of anyone snooping around their business.
The German Federal Data Protection Act reflects that to a certain extent. It prohibits the collection and use of personal data without the users’ consent outside of the rigour of the law.
Despite that, some claim that recent amendments to the law actually make online anonymity quite impossible to achieve.
Another well-known fact is that Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) is not too shy to closely monitor the population’s internet activity, so using a VPN while conducting your regular legal activities online is probably a great idea.
Yes, using a VPN in France is perfectly legal. Like in all other countries I mentioned before, it’s important to keep in mind that VPNs are not “get out of jail free cards”.
If you’re just concerned about your online security and privacy or you are simply looking to bypass certain restrictions within the bounds of the law, French authorities will have nothing against you.
Performing illegal online activities of any kind though is a totally different story.
Yes. VPNs are not illegal in Italy either. No laws are currently in place to regulate in any way the use of VPNs and you can subscribe and use one without having to worry about the legality of this action.
More great news for internet users from Italy comes through the fact that unlike other big countries in Europe, there is a lot more freedom online in Italy. The authorities worry a lot less about what the citizens are doing online.
So to sum up, VPNs are completely legal in Italy whether you’re a citizen or just a tourist. As long as you obey the other laws and don’t perform any illegal actions online, you have nothing to worry about.
Canada is one of the countries with the highest internet penetration rates in the world. Over 36 million people live in Canada and 96% of them are internet users.
That being said, it’s only natural for people to ask whether using a VPN in Canada is legal. And the answer is a definitive yes.
The country has no laws or regulations regarding the use of VPNs and they are accepted as a normal part of browsing the internet. Like everywhere else, using a VPN to hide your identity while conducting any kind of illegal activity online remains illegal and you could still be held accountable for your actions.
Yes. You can legally use a VPN in Australia. As of 2021, current legislation does not regulate or outlaw the use of Virtual Private Networks in Australia.
Whether you’re worried about your security when using a public Wi-Fi network, about your privacy from your ISP or simply looking to bypass some restrictions and access online platforms that are not available in your location, it is completely legal to use a VPN.
Unlawful activities remain illegal even while using a VPN and you should always remember that even though your VPN can do some pretty great things to protect your anonymity, there are still ways you can get caught and you should never conduct any illegal activities online (or offline for that matter).
As much as I would like to give you a straight answer on this one, the truth is that it’s a grey area.
The communist regime from Beijing has been struggling to make sure that no residents have access to any information outside the Chinese Great Firewall for years.
In order to protect the regime and keep the population docile and completely dependent on “approved” news sites, Chinese authorities have a long history of limiting their populations’ liberties and online privacy is pretty much non-existent.
A plethora of websites and Internet tools like Google Search, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia (to name a few) have been blocked for years now and many have used VPNs to get around those restrictions in the past.
For individuals, the use of VPNs to circumnavigate the restrictions is illegal and the offense is at the moment punishable with a fine. Despite that, over 30% of Internet users from China still use VPNs to bypass the restrictions. The need for freedom has always been a powerful motivator.
Interestingly enough, the rule seems to only apply to residents and not to tourists or visitors, as to date there hasn’t been a single fine issued to a non-resident.
If you are planning a trip to China and you want to make sure you still have access to the same websites you’re used to accessing at home, it’s a good idea to shop in advance. All VPN websites and apps are blocked by the firewall and you won’t be able to buy a subscription or download an app while you’re there.
So to sum up, using a VPN in China is illegal as an individual, but the rule only seems to apply for residents. For businesses, things get even more complicated, but that is a whole different story.
So if you are planning a trip to China as a non-resident, you will probably get away with using a VPN as long as you buy it and download it on your devices before getting to China, and as long as you don’t engage in any kind of illegal online activity.
Again, another grey area. Current legislation from the UAE states that it is not illegal for businesses to use VPNs as long as it’s for legitimate reasons. The use of VPNs by individuals is completely left out of the text of the law.
That leads most to believe that it is not illegal to use a VPN in the UAE. The fact that VPN websites and apps are not blocked in the UAE seems to support this supposition.
What the law does mention though, is that the use of VPN to hide your identity online while performing any unlawful activities, is illegal and will be punished dearly. There is no clarification as to whether the use of VPN makes your illegal activity worse or not.
The UAE remains one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to online restrictions and censorship. The number of websites that cannot be accessed from the UAE is huge, the surveillance is pervasive and online speech can be criminally punished.
Since VPNs are still a tool that can help protect your identity and data while browsing the web from the UAE, it’s probably a good idea to use it.
You could have access to websites that are normally not available, you could ensure that your ISP doesn’t have all the information about your online activities, and as long as it’s still legal, why wouldn’t you?
While most of the countries have a more relaxed approach to the use of VPNs from a legal standpoint, there are some that completely banned their use.
Here are a couple of countries where VPNs are completely banned or even illegal.
The use of VPNs is completely illegal in North Korea. Internet censorship is the worst in the world here, with most citizens being completely unable to access the internet. They only have access to North Korea’s intranet, Kwangmyong, which is, as you would expect, heavily restricted.
While the level of censorship is not even close to the one from North Korea, Iraqi authorities have taken the use of VPNs outside the law. VPN users can be caught and punished for trying to bypass the restrictions set by the government.
Since 2015, the use of technologies that aid internet users to gain any level of anonymity online has been banned and considered a crime. The government in Belarus is hard at work in blocking apps and websites which would allow the population to communicate freely or to gather real information from uncontrolled news platforms.
As you would probably expect, the use of VPNs in Russia is illegal. Similar to the case of Belarus, Russian authorities have banned VPNs in 2017 to be able to control what information the population has access to, under the premise of needing a way to ban “extremist” content.
Turkey is one of the countries with the most restrictive Internet limitations. From social media platforms to news websites that are not approved by the regime, to Wikipedia and Youtube, a plethora of platforms are inaccessible. While the use of VPNs in itself is not illegal, most VPN providers have been banned and their services cannot be contracted from Turkey.
As mentioned above, you may get away with using a VPN in China as a tourist, but they are actually outlawed for residents. Despite that, over 30% of the internet users risk getting fined and still use VPNs to be able to access websites outside the Chinese Firewall.
Generally speaking, no. It’s a bit unethical and you could end up with your Netflix account blocked, but in general, you don’t risk actually breaking the law and facing legal consequences.
Netflix uses geo-restrictions to control what content is available in different regions in order to follow the copyright holder’s license permissions.
While using Netflix through a VPN and tricking it to display content that is normally not available in your region is not considered piracy or illegal, there are some places in the world where you can end up in a world of trouble.
Countries like North Korea or others where the use of VPNs in itself is illegal or where Netflix is outlawed can even have charges including jail time for those who break their rules.
Yes and no. While the use of VPNs is, with some exceptions, not considered illegal, you could still face jail time.
It all depends on the legislation in the country you are using the VPN in and what you are using it for.
Countries like North Korea where the use of VPNs is punishable with jail are not many. Most users from other countries where VPNs are illegal only risk paying a fine if the only crime they commit is using the VPN to protect their privacy.
Committing another crime while using a VPN is a different story. Anything that is normally illegal to do online, will remain illegal anywhere in the world, even though the crime is committed through a VPN.
Yes. P2P VPNs (the only ones where torrenting is possible) are not illegal. Depending on the content you download or upload through torrents could be a crime though.
Copyright infringement is no joke though and it can result in some pretty steep fines and other forms of legal action by the copyright holders. Even while using a VPN, the legislation from your country is the one that prevails and you should always respect the law.
You could end up in trouble even though the use of torrenting VPNs isn’t illegal, so our advice is to pay extra attention whenever you decide to download or upload torrents.
While most of the world hasn’t adopted legislation to regulate or limit the use of VPN services, there are some exceptions. Always make sure to check the updates on the legislation before traveling abroad.
The universal trend is towards more control from the authorities over the data we share online, so using a VPN until they get outlawed is in our opinion a great idea.
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