Is a VPN legal to use? It’s a legitimate question and the answer is not a simple yes or no. In most cases it is perfectly legal for you to use a VPN to access the internet, but there are some cases where the activity you engage in or the country where you connect could make using a VPN illegal. Read on for more.
When you consider the fact that a number of countries have begun passing laws banning VPNs, it’s easy to see why people wonder if a VPN is legal.
Add to that the idea that VPNs are specifically designed to mask your Internet activity and are developed by companies strategically located beyond the jurisdiction of any major superpower, and you begin to see the full picture.
The question isn’t about the integrity of VPN services; the question is in what cases is a VPN illegal to use?
Before you continue reading, check out this video for a quick overview on this topic!
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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
With a quality VPN (see our list of the best VPNs on the market today), you are able to mask your IP address, shield yourself from the prying eyes of 3rd Parties, and access geo-restricted content.
Of course, having all these abilities at your fingertips comes with the risk of abusing powers granted to you with a VPN. Under the terms and conditions of all VPN services you can usually find a list of activities that are prohibited while using a VPN. Among the numerous prohibited items, what sticks out most is:
- Distributing internet viruses: Hiding yourself while trying to infect other networks with a virus is an obvious no-no.
- Gaining illegal access to other computers or networks: Again, a bit obvious but it needs to be stated.
- IP spoofing: The act of pretending to be another machine in order to gain illegal access to a computer or network.
- Copyright, Trademark, and Patent Infringement: In other words, torrenting content you would have to pay for under normal circumstances. Even if your VPN provider allows peer-to-peer and torrent traffic, it does not suffice to say they allow illegally downloading copyrighted content.
You should also keep in mind that you are never safe torrenting copyrighted content with a VPN. Some VPNs even log your activity to crack down on illegal practices.
But my VPN says they don’t log data…right?!
Ever VPN company claims to not log data, but this isn’t always true.
While many VPN providers claim they do not log user data, you can never guarantee this is the case. Even if providers truly do not log user activity, it is possible that the 3rd Party companies they rent servers from do and can use your data to land you in trouble with the police. Therefore you always run the risk of bringing the law down upon yourself when illegally downloading copyrighted material.
Is it illegal to use a VPN in a country that bans them?
Apart from criminal activity, a small number of countries have banned VPNs, further clouding whether a VPN is legal or illegal. Among these countries that have banned VPNs are:
VPNs have been banned in Iran, Russia, China, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
As a number of these countries (such as Russia) have only recently made VPNs illegal, it is still too early to gauge how strict these bans will be. Moreover, as many corporations and media networks rely on VPN use in some of these countries, it is likely that VPNs will not be entirely eliminated.
Foreigners are usually fine to use VPNs, it’s the local who have to worry.
However, that doesn’t mean that citizens and residents in these countries will not be affected. In China, for example, the Great Firewall uses deep packet inspection (DPI) to detect and block VPNs. Furthermore, in China’s far western province Xinjiang, the government has even gone far enough to block cell phone usage for residents caught using VPNs.
Does this mean you should avoid using a VPN in countries where they are blocked? Generally speaking, campaigns to restrict VPNs in countries like China are geared towards local citizens and domestic VPN services. Therefore, foreigners can usually connect to offshore VPNs and only have to worry about the occasional connection disruption.
For locals, on the other hand, using a VPN can be considered an anti-government act and has in the past resulted in jail time.
Final Thoughts | Is a VPN Illegal
To sum up, it is not only legal but also highly recommended that you use a VPN to maintain Internet privacy and enhance security. Only by using your VPN for activities that are clearly illegal do you run the risk of getting in trouble with the law.
The only other thing to consider is whether you are using a VPN in a country that bans their use. If you are a foreigner in that country, you can generally use a VPN without any concerns, but locals should think twice and review how local laws can affect them if caught using a VPN.