Are VPNs Legal in Your Country? A Guide for 2023
VPNs keep your Internet activity private and secure by hiding your IP address and routing your traffic through an encrypted connection from your computer to a VPN server. Although VPNs can be beneficial for Internet users, several countries have put in place stringent regulations that limit their use, while others have outright banned them. This article provides an up-to-date list of the countries that limit the use of VPNs.
What is a VPN and what can it be used for?
We covered VPNs and why they should be used in this article. Here is a summary of some of the main advantages of VPNs:
- Protect your privacy online. Government agencies, marketers, and Internet service providers (ISPs) would all love to track and collect your browsing history, messages, and other private data. A VPN encrypts your traffic and hides your IP address, keeping your activity private.
- Secure your data on public Wi-Fi. Browse in full privacy by securing your connection when on public Wi-Fi. Hackers have many methods to steal your data via public hotspots, but with a VPN, your online traffic is invisible to them.
- Unblock geo-restricted sites. VPNs can help spoof your location, which allows you to access region-specific versions of streaming sites like Netflix and BBC iPlayer.
- Access social media. Several countries are known to block specific social media sites, such as SnapChat and Instagram. A VPN can help you retain access to these sites while traveling.
- Step-up business security. A (business) VPN is a way for a company to provide remote employees with access to the company’s internal applications and data and to create a single shared network between multiple office locations.
- Prevent bandwidth throttling by ISP. People who like gaming online or who are trying to download torrent files may have to contend with bandwidth throttling, which is when the ISP limits your speed based on the type of data it detects.
Why would a VPN be banned?
A VPN may be banned if it is being used to bypass restrictions that have been put in place by a government or other institution. For example, a VPN could be used to gain access to specific websites and services that have been prohibited. Also, VPNs curtail the effectiveness of Internet surveillance mechanisms. Additionally, some companies and organizations may ban VPNs from their networks if they believe that the use of a VPN could compromise security.
Although few countries have taken a stance against VPNs, it is likely only a matter of time before more follow suit. Restriction to VPN access often goes hand-in-hand with a totalitarian style of government. These factors may also play a role:
- Censorship. Governments may want to censor certain aspects of media and information. Virtue censorship is common in some countries, especially those where the slightest amount of sex or profanity is considered a sin.
- Information control. Controlling the information citizens can see is a direct method of exerting influence over the way they think and feel (and vote). Totalitarian regimes throughout history have had a tight grip on what information was allowed through their borders. Checkpoints on roads and train routes to check for dissenting books, flyers, pamphlets, and even people were commonplace. Today, the checkpoints have to be online.
Are VPNs legal? Countries with laws limiting or banning the use of VPNs
Here we will reveal the stance of each of the countries with relatively strict attitudes toward VPN usage.
The Great Firewall of China is well-known around the world. Currently, the Chinese government has a blanket law prohibiting the usage or operation of VPN services within Chinese borders.
The use of VPNs is legal in India; however, all VPN providers are required to collect and report identifying data from their users for five years, rendering their use pointless.
A ban on the use of VPNs has been in place since 2017. The ban is intended to prevent the spread of extremist materials and ideas, and users caught using VPNs face hefty fines.
The Turkish government heavily censors the Internet and has instructed ISPs to block access to the most popular VPNs. Although VPNs are not banned, the government frequently throttles the Internet, blocks access to foreign social media sites, and instructs ISPs to block access to VPNs.
United Arab Emirates
VPNs are legal unless they are used while committing a crime, in which case VPN-related penalty fees would be added to the punishment for the actual crime.
VPNs are legal in Iran, but with a very large caveat. People can only sign up with a VPN provider that is registered and approved by the government, rendering them useless if the goal was to access government-blocked sites.
Iraq has also banned VPN services in an attempt to track and stop ISIS. However, government officials have still been known to use VPN services in the country despite banning it for citizens.
Instead of the Internet, citizens of North Korea only have access to “Kwangmyong,” a national intranet. Whether VPNs are actually banned is unclear. Most North Korean citizens have no access to computers, smartphones, or the Internet.
Although it is not actually illegal to use VPNs, many of them (those not sanctioned by the government) are blocked.
Turkmenistan has been cited as one of the most heavily censored countries in the world. It has just one ISP, and that ISP is government-owned. VPNs are frequently blocked.
VPNs are illegal in Belarus. In fact, the country has banned any technology that anonymizes Internet usage. Although users face fines if caught, VPN use still remains popular.
VPNs are not illegal, but the country has a well-publicized history of violating the press rights of citizens.
VPNs are not illegal to use, but ISPs are not allowed to provide access to them. Once a VPN becomes well-known enough to come to the attention of ISPs, access to it is quickly blocked.
In general, using a VPN is not a problem when it comes to countries that respect their citizens’ right to freedom of speech. However, in case you are in one of the countries listed here, our recommendation would be strongly to reconsider your options.
*The opinions reflected in this article are the sole opinions of the author and do not reflect any official positions or claims by Acer Inc.
About Ashley Buckwell: Ashley is a technology writer who is interested in computers and software development. He is also a fintech researcher and is fascinated with emerging trends in DeFi, blockchain, and bitcoin. He has been writing, editing, and creating content for the ESL industry in Asia for eight years, with a special focus on interactive, digital learning.