Are VPNs Legal?
‘Is it legal to use a VPN?’ is an essential question for anyone looking to invest in a safe and secure VPN service. If you browse online, there’s plenty of information and different articles responding to other questions including are VPNs legal in USA? or is it illegal to use a VPN for Netflix?
In the majority of circumstances, VPNs are legal to use although certain countries have banned or restricted their use due to their own laws surrounding privacy and content. It’s important to remember that if you use a VPN to conceal unlawful behavior, then this is still considered illegal too.
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Now, we’ll explore whether VPNs are legal to use, why certain countries have restricted their use, and the essential features every reliable VPN should have.
Is it legal to use a VPN?
Usually, yes is the short answer to the question of whether it is legal to use a VPN, although it can depend on your location or how you use such a product. VPNs work by creating tunnels to establish a more secure connection for online users. By using a VPN, you can enhance your privacy and access different kinds of content without any restrictions. It can also let you visit your favorite sites without fear of being tracked by any external companies which might use your precious information to bombard you with targeted advertising.
Deploying a VPN is a perfectly legitimate way of behaving online to protect your privacy as many of us want to avoid unwanted attention from nosy companies or businesses. However, it is important to remember that laws do differ between countries. You should also remember that if you are doing something unlawful online, just because you are hiding it behind a VPN does not make it okay.
What is an illegal use of VPN?
There are different online activities that a VPN can help conceal but could be considered illegal in the eyes of the law.
The dark web is deemed by many to be a shady online underworld where nefarious behavior takes place. While it is not illegal to visit the dark web in itself, it is illegal to carry out certain actions that would be unlawful in the real world in this marketplace such as buying a gun or trading drugs.
Cyberbullying or online harassment is against the law even though a VPN can conceal your identity too. Just because a victim will find it hard to work out the identity of the perpetrator does not make this kind of behavior lawful.
You could also use a VPN to access illegal online content that does not comply with laws around copyright or intellectual property. Although any copyright infringements are not usually followed up when concerning individuals, it is still against the law and your internet service provider (ISP) could get involved if deemed serious enough.
Is it illegal to use a VPN for Netflix?
Different content streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu have their own policies around certain types of content depending on location.
If you are traveling and want to access your favorite show but are blocked due to where you are, then there’s no denying this is frustrating. Using a VPN can be a way around these geo-restrictions as it can allow you to watch as much of this content as you like no matter where you are.
But is using a VPN to watch Netflix illegal? No, it’s not illegal to do so but it can violate the terms of service you agreed to when you set up your account. To date, no one has lost a contract with a service like Netflix for using a VPN.
Which countries have banned or restricted VPN use?
A number of different countries across the world have banned or restricted the use of VPNs. This changes as the legislation and restrictions are obviously different between nation-states. The countries that have banned VPNs include:
- North Korea
- United Arab Emirates
What happens if you get caught using VPN?
As we’ve said, using a VPN is only deemed a crime in certain countries or nations. If a company like Netflix does work out that you’re using a VPN to access geo-blocked content, then you may see a warning message telling you to stop. But that is about as far as their response will go. You should also remember that this is not against the law but does violate their terms of service which could potentially put the ongoing use of your account at risk.
A service such as Netflix could potentially file some sort of lawsuit for breaching copyright but no precedent for this has yet been set.
However, in countries where VPNs are banned, their mere use could lead to more serious repercussions.
In the United Arab Emirates, new laws state that anyone who uses a proxy server or VPN is at risk of a jail term or a fine of anything between Dh500,000-Dh2,000,000 ($136,000-$545,000) if they are found to use VPNs fraudulently. In Myanmar, the authorities are threatening VPN users with jail sentences of up to three years alongside fines of $2,800.
China’s Great Firewall means its citizens are only able to view websites approved by the authorities. This means the online experience in China is subject to great restrictions. Reportedly, a male resident was given “an unspecified administrative penalty” for bypassing this.
How do people get caught using VPN?
A VPN is an effective way of protecting your privacy online by establishing a secure connection. This can hide your IP address and prevent your browsing from being tracked.
This sounds secure but you can still be caught out when using a VPN. If you have chosen a free service, then this could put your online privacy at risk. They may have weak cybersecurity in place or even farm your data out. As their service is free, they need to generate income in other ways, including selling your precious personal details.
If you are the subject of a police investigation and a court order has been raised, then the authorities could go to your ISP to request information on your connection or usage logs.
In countries where VPNs are banned, it’s sensible to take the precaution of investing in a reliable VPN service. This means you’re adding an extra layer of security. Let’s look at the best features every decent VPN should possess.
Important features a reliable VPN should have
A VPN creates a secure tunnel between you and your target destination on the web. However, if this connection collapses, then this tunnel disappears meaning your personal information could be made available. A good VPN will employ a Kill Switch to immediately disconnect all of your devices from the internet until a secure network is established once again.
When using a VPN, users are usually connecting to a remote server. By doing so, you can change your location or IP address to prevent any information you are sending or receiving from being visible. Utilizing a double VPN adds another layer of security by doubling up on your protection.
By using a reliable VPN, you will be accessing a number of different servers for enhanced security and speedy connections. A good provider will invest in their VPN servers and ensure they are well maintained for optimum performance.
Any VPN provider worth its salt will have a no-logs policy that demonstrates its commitment to respecting your privacy. This will explain what data it collects and why as transparently and as simply as possible. For instance, with VeePN, our policy explains how we do not collect your browsing history, your IP address, or your device’s metadata. We also never share your data with any third parties.
How to test if a VPN is reliable
Before selecting a VPN, you should do your research online and look for reviews or peer recommendations on the best services. If a VPN has ever been involved in a data leak or caught selling user data, then it’s probably wise to be avoided. This usually involves free VPNs which are often too good to be true.
You can also test the reliability of a VPN by checking if it alters your IP address. Follow the below steps to do so:
- Make sure you are not using a VPN. Then go to https://myip.veepn.com/
- Connect to your VPN and check your IP address again
If your VPN is working effectively, then you should see a different IP address and browsing location. This is the most basic check you can use to assess the status of a VPN and whether it is working.
If you don’t check the reliability of your VPN, then you are putting your IP at risk. This is something we really recommend you avoid wherever possible.
Additional ways to safeguard your online privacy
There are additional tests you can take to protect your online privacy including with your domain name system or DNS. This is what creates our IP addresses and domain names. When using a VPN, any online traffic is usually sent to an unknown DNS server. If this doesn’t happen and your request goes to your ISP, then it’s likely that you’re suffering from a DNS leak and your information is exposed. You can test for a leak of this kind with websites including DNSLeak.com or DNSLeakTest.com.
It can also be prudent to check the security of applications using WebRTC such as Google Hangouts of Discord. This is an open-source project designed to enable peer-to-peer connections without needing any additional plugins or applications. However, when a VPN user visits a site with WebRTC enables, it means data can be transmitted outside of any encryption. A way to check if it is leaking is to verify the IP address when connected to a VPN. It should be identical and if not, then your security could be at risk.
So are VPNs legal to use? As we’ve seen, this depends on your location and how you are using this service. If you are traveling to a new location, then it can be sensible to review their legislation surrounding VPNs to be sure you are adhering to their laws. If you want to give yourself complete peace of mind, then it is worth investing in a reliable VPN service to ensure your data will remain as safe as possible.