Are VPNs Legal? Your Rights to Using VPNs Explained

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People have negative associations when it comes to VPNs because a lot of folks use providers for torrenting or for illegal activities. That’s why some countries ban them.

However, VPNs are legal. We will dig deeper into this question and tell you more about the issue.

DISCLAIMER: This article and the information provided in it could be subject to change. To check whether some pieces of information about VPNs and particular countries are accurate, it is best to contact a lawyer.

Countries with Controlled VPNs

I wrote this article to explain more about how some states with strict laws and regulations ban VPNs from being in control of their citizens’ internet use. Some countries allow government-regulated VPNs, while there are countries where VPN is illegal.

I did some research to find out more about strict VPN use in the following countries — China, Iran, Oman, Russia, Turkey, and the UAE.

  • China

China is probably the first country that comes to mind when you think of government control.

VPNs are not allowed in China since the government cannot control operations across borders when VPNs are in use. They have strictly regulated internet use and VPN use.

VPNs permitted by the government do not serve their purpose since they are carefully observed.  Foreign VPNs are forbidden, and Chinese citizens can be punished up to $2,200 for using them. The law has been active since March 2018. 

However, if you install one of the best VPNs for China before traveling to the country, you’re allowed to use it.

  • Iran

We could say that Iran’s laws are even more severe. Iran banned VPNs entirely in 2013. They did so to stop illegal activities and punish citizens with prison time if they were caught breaking state laws.

Prison time could be from 91 days to a year. We found out that officials do not taunt people using VPNs for daily activities such as social media. However, their private information is still not completely secure.

  • Oman

Oman forbids the use of VPNs to avoid ISP censorship and the ban on the use of VOIP.

Additionally, this means citizens are not allowed to use VPNs for recreational purposes. There are government-approved VPNs that keep logins.

There are also money fines for using illegal VPNs — $1,300 for citizens and $2,600 for companies. VPNs have been banned in Oman since 2010.

  • Russia

Another country that introduced this law in November 2017 is Russia. The country decided to implement stricter punishments for illegal activities on the web. VPNs are only forbidden for those purposes.

Law-abiding citizens are free to use paid and free VPNs for legal activities. But those VPNs have to be approved by the government. If you’re caught using an illegal VPN, your punishment would be around $5,100, while the VPN provider would have to pay a $12,000 fine.

  • Turkey

Turkey banned the use of VPNs in 2016 to control its citizens’ social media use and prevent evading government-imposed censorship.

However, the law is not that strong in Turkey, which means you can still use some VPNs.

  • United Arab Emirates

In the United Arab Emirates, the ban on VPNs is valid only for individual citizens, not for corporations and companies. The ban was imposed in 2012 to aid telecommunication companies to make a profit.

Citizens are not allowed to use VPNs for Skype or other audio or video call apps. Depending on the severity of the crime, those who break the law can pay a fine of $544,000 or get a custodial sentence. 

Where is VPN illegal?

I have learned about some countries that have completely banned the use of VPNs.

  • Belarus

Since 2015, Belarus’s government decided to ban VPNs in the country entirely.

They took this step to stop any possible illegal activities that go against the government-imposed rules.

Using Tor or VPN is unlawful, and those who break these rules can face fines. Avoiding geo-restrictions with VPN is also punishable by law.

  • Iraq

Iraq banned virtual private networks to prevent further ISIS manipulation over social media, chat apps, and other sites.

Even though the intention was good, citizens are the ones paying the price.

The government and government-owned institutions are allowed to use VPNs and can, therefore, break the law. VPNs have been banned in Iraq since June 2014.

  • North Korea

There is complete internet censorship in North Korea, but there isn’t a lot of information about North Korea and its VPN use.

The citizens can only use their version of the Internet, while the VPN use is completely banned.

No foreign media, sites, or apps are allowed in North Korea. Foreigners can use 3G Internet, but using VPNs is out of the question.

  • Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan banned VPNs in 2015 primarily because of politics, with the intent to censor foreign media.

There is complete censorship in Turkmenistan with only one government-issued Internet Service Provider.

If the use of a VPN is detected, the culprits can expect administrative penalties and intimidation methods.

VPN Use on the Road

If you’re a traveler, you’re probably wondering where VPNs are legal or which countries offer decent VPN services. I dug deeper and discovered which countries have problems regarding internet use.

Some countries, like Cuba, have limited internet access, so be sure to set up a VPN for your Windows before visiting this country. There are some restrictions like keyword filtering and IP blocking, though. Other countries:

  • Ethiopia
  • Gambia

Have strict policies because of their politics. Both countries tend to block the oppositions’ websites. Many journalists in Sudan and Myanmar get arrested for posting anti-government content.

If you need to conceal your IP address while traveling, download a VPN to your iPhone or other devices, like NordVPN, before you leave your country. You will need VPN services in countries such as:

  • Tunisia
  • Bahrain
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vietnam
  • Thailand
1
ExpressVPN
Excellent (5)
2
CyberGhost
Excellent (5)
3
PIA VPN
Good (4,5)
4
NordVPN
Good (4,5)
5
IPVanish
Good (4,5)

FAQs

Are VPNs legal in UK and US?

Countries like the USA, UK, and Canada allow legal use of VPNs.

You do not have to hide your IP address to camouflage your online activities.

Is It Illegal To Use a VPN for Netflix?

No, not entirely. There are some ways to use VPNs for streaming Netflix and other streaming services. However, that’s not entirely legal.

If you are, for example, located in the UK and you want to stream Netflix from a US location, that would be possible if you are not required to provide any personal information.

Since this is a gray area, you are unlikely to get sued or punished if you get caught.

However, your Netflix account would probably get banned.

Can You Be Tracked If You Use a VPN?

If you choose one of the VPN providers that have a no-login policy, you will not be tracked.

With this type of VPN, your location is secure, and your activity is undetectable.

Again, it depends on the country. Some VPN providers make agreements with the government so that they can register their businesses.

Those countries are, for the most part, those we’ve previously mentioned.

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