Are VPNs Legal or Illegal in 2023? Detailed Guide on VPN Laws
VPNs are the best tool for protecting your online privacy and digital freedom. Nevertheless, many people debate about the legality of a VPN and how safe it is to use.
It is legal and safe to use a VPN in most countries like the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia, etc. However, there are certain regions where using a VPN is restricted because, apparently, they want to keep track of users’ online activity and maybe because they do not want to provide their citizens the digital freedom they deserve.
How Does a VPN Work?
When you connect to a VPN server, your device and the internet connection are secured, and your traffic is encrypted. Also, your original IP and DNS are masked, and you are assigned the IP and DNS of the server you have connected to.
This way, you become anonymous online, and no one can track your activity or control your bandwidth.
How safe are VPNs?
A reliable VPN provider like Astrill is always safe because it has top-notch safety features and military-grade encryption. It protects the users’ privacy by making them anonymous over the web and protecting them from malware and hackers.
Another level of VPN safety is that it prevents your ISP from tracking your activity and allows you to bypass ISP throttling. Many ISPs and free VPNs also track user activity and keep data logs. They sell it to different advertisers, government agencies, and other data-mining companies to earn huge profits. However, a premium VPN does not keep any logs nor track your activity, allowing you to surf the web freely as you like.
Where Are VPNs Legal?
VPNs are legal almost everywhere worldwide, including the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and almost all across Europe. In simpler terms, the countries that value users’ privacy and online freedom do not ban VPN use. Countries like Turkey, Iraq, Russia, etc., are involved in online surveillance and censorship, which is why they have banned VPN use.
However, how you use the VPN can be a different thing! If you use a VPN to engage in illicit activity, you’ll face legal implications. The countries where using a VPN is restricted or banned, claim that VPNs are mainly used for illegal activities, which is why they have such a stance over it.
Countries where VPNs are Illegal
Some countries have banned the use of VPNs straight away, while some regions have a bit different stance and have restricted the use of a VPN. Countries where the use of a VPN is ‘restricted’ rather than being banned or termed illegal.
This restriction means that they are legal if the VPNs meet specific requirements. These requirements are exactly the things that a VPN protects the user from, and asking the VPNs to adhere to these requirements is something that makes a VPN useless. These requirements are related to collecting users’ data and tracking their activity.
VPNs are the tools that ensure users’ privacy, but when authorities term their legality with certain requirements, the use of a VPN becomes unreasonable.
Following are the countries where using a VPN is illegal, but if you are using a premium VPN like Astrill, then you will find virtual servers from these regions as well:
In China, only the VPNs approved by the Government are legal. The Government approves VPNs that provide data logs and backdoor access.
China has set up a great filter that blocks VPNs, known as the Great Firewall. It not only blocks VPN access but also maintains censorship. Astrill VPN has the capability of bypassing the Great Firewall and providing access to the users to censored content and apps. Astrill VPN does not comply with nor believes in adhering to any of the requirements of the Chinese government, yet it has the capability of working perfectly in China.
Russian ISPs block the websites of VPN providers as well as their affiliates. Just like in China, only the VPNs that are approved by the Government are allowed in Russia. They restricted VPN access back in 2017, and only the VPNs that are approved by the government are allowed to operate in the region. The approval from the government of Russia is only given to the VPN providers who are involved in data logging, which is something that is against user privacy.
VPNs are not illegal in Turkey but are restricted to keeping track of user activity to prevent terrorism. In Turkey, many social media platforms are also blocked for the prevention of terrorism and anti-government campaigns. Only a few VPNs including Astrill are allowed to operate in Turkey, providing government users’ activity logs.
The country does not believe in online freedom and has banned the use of VPNs. Anyone found using a VPN is punished or fined but not as heavily as in China or Belarus. Iraq has imposed online censorship to a great extent. They have banned VPNs and placed censorship to prevent terrorist organizations from influencing the public.
Turkmenistan’s ISPs block all proxies and VPNs, as they are banned and illegal in the country. The country has banned the use of VPNs in order to censor international media. Also, the internet is purposefully costly in the country, in order to deter people from utilizing it.
The authorities keep thorough checks on the people and track their online activity. Anyone found using a proxy or a VPN is fined by the government.
6. North Korea
The government of North Korea prohibits VPN usage and constantly monitors internet access. The country has an intranet and the people can use only that, which allows the government to spy on people easily. To stop people from accessing foreign media, the government of North Korea has termed using a VPN illegal.
VPN use is restricted in the UAE, not banned or termed illegal. However, if you are using a VPN for any illegal activity, you will be slapped with a hefty fine of $136,129. The reason for the VPN restriction is unclear, but the UAE government does not encourage people to use VPNs.
The Sultanate approves only a few VPN providers, and the rest are banned. Mainly the corporate VPNs are bound to maintain activity logs. The use of a personal VPN is banned in Oman to prevent people from accessing censored content. Anyone found using a VPN is fined $1,300, less than UAE.
VPNs that are approved by the government of Iran or in other words, VPNs that monitor the users’ and keep their logs, are legal in Iran. You can go to prison for one year if you try using a VPN that is not approved by the state.
VPNs are not illegal in Egypt, but their use is restricted. If you use them for accessing blocked websites, then you might face jail time or hefty fines. The authorities have restricted the use of VPNs in Egypt to bypass censorship.
In Belarus, using a VPN is termed illegal as they believe it is a way of stopping anti-government information from circulating online. Anyone who tries to use a VPN in Belarus is fined heavily.
Is it Safe to Use a VPN server located in a Country that Restricts VPNs?
Since regulations regarding virtual private networks (VPNs) vary per nation, it’s important to research any applicable restrictions before establishing a VPN connection there. Using a virtual private network (VPN) when physically present in a nation where doing so is prohibited is not the same as connecting outside of that country. You should still ensure that, even if a VPN is blocked, you can connect to a server in the nation in question.
It is impossible to tell what limitations will be in effect in a nation, even if your VPN client offers servers there.
The VPN’s logging policy is another important factor to think about. The VPN provider you use should not keep any records of your activity, as this would violate the “no logs policy” by the VPN provider. If your VPN doesn’t keep logs of your activity, then your data is safe from being stored or sold.
In spite of the VPN service’s logging policy, data sharing may be mandated by some nations. Always ensure you comply with the laws of the nation in which your VPN server is located.
While most countries have some sort of VPN logging policy in place, individual countries have varying regulations regarding their use. Find a VPN not headquartered in one of the FVEY countries subject to data retention laws: the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. As a group, these five nations have more clout in demanding that VPNs hand over user data and more frequently share their online data.
Is it Legal to Download Content with a VPN?
One thing that needs to be understood is that using a VPN does not make your illicit actions any less criminal. Downloading movies, TV shows, music, games, and software via torrents is a known offense in almost all parts of the world. In Europe, it is illegal to download a file without the copyright holder’s consent, which is called piracy.
Piracy is a growing concern as you can get pirated movies online for streaming. Popcorn Time, PrimeWire, and Kodi are unlawful sites where you can watch movies and TV shows online for free. Every country has its own set of rules, so it’s important to know the ones that apply to your location.
You can still be in trouble with the law if you download something without permission, even if you are using a VPN. No doubt that a VPN makes it more difficult for governments and other organizations to monitor your online activity, but it cannot make you completely invisible to authorities. Therefore, you should always give it some serious thought before deciding to watch a pirated movie or TV show on your computer.
What could happen if you use a VPN illegally?
There can be certain consequences that you might face for using a VPN illegally, like:
- The ISP can bar your internet connection if they detect you using a VPN.
- You can be fined, as countries like Oman and UAE fine users found using a VPN.
- You can face jail time, as in countries like Iran and Egypt
Is it legal and safe to use a VPN in the US and Canada?
Yes, it is completely legal and safe to use a VPN in the US and Canada. Various privacy regulation frameworks were also introduced in multiple US states, which enforce the use of a VPN.
Countries like the USA and Canada, value user privacy, allowing users to use a VPN and maintain their online privacy.
How Streaming Platforms Restrict the Use of VPNs?
Streaming platforms like Netflix, HBO Max, Disney Plus, and Hulu have smart VPN blockers. These VPN blockers cross-match the DNS and IP address of the user trying to access the service. If both of them match, then they grant access to the users, and if they do not correlate, then they detect that the user is using a VPN to access the service.
Once the VPN blocker detects that a user is using a VPN, it instantly blocks the user’s access and blacklists that IP address. Astrill has the capability of bypassing this VPN blockage easily and enabling user access to the streaming service without being detected.
Can the VPN server’s ISP track my activity?
The basic reason for using a VPN is to hide your activity from your ISP. However, the VPN server’s ISP can track your activity when you are connected to the VPN server. Nevertheless, if you use a reliable VPN like Astrill that does not keep user logs and has a strict no-logs policy, you do not have to worry about anything.
The legality of a VPN has been made controversial by the countries that do not value user privacy and digital freedom. Every user has the right to use the internet the way they want to and should be given the right to privacy.
Countries like Russia, China, Iran, Belarus etc. have banned the use of VPN because they think that this way they can control the anti-government narrative among the people. They fail to understand that they are taking away people’s right to privacy.
Astrill VPN advocates for the digital freedom of people and their right to online privacy. This is why we provide seamless and fast vpn service and top-notch safety of protocols to everyone, regardless of the country or profession. Astrill wants to empower people to overcome censorship and surveillance and enable them to use the internet as it should be.
Author: Arsalan Rathore
Arsalan Rathore is a tech geek who loves to pen down his thoughts and views on cybersecurity, technology innovation, entertainment, and social issues. He likes sharing his thoughts about the emerging tech trends in the market and also loves discussing online privacy issues.