A VPN or a Virtual Private Network is a secure channel for exchange of data between two systems over a network. It is a tool to encrypt and secure your communications. This makes VPNs a powerful privacy utility that we all should consider using. If however, you are unaware of VPN, you can read what is a VPN for a more in-depth explanation. The gist here, is that just like the Internet, VPN is also an utility over a network. The added advantage is that VPNs can make you difficult to identify and can potentially hide you from Governments and sometimes, from hackers. So a question arises here: Is using a VPN Legal? Just as using the internet itself is not illegal, using VPNs is also not illegal either. Nonetheless, if what you are doing while using a VPN breaks the law of the land, then you are obviously liable to be prosecuted with criminal charges.
That would be the simple thing to say in under fifty words, but the reality is that we now live in a post-Snowden world. More and more Internet users are now concerned about their online privacy and anonymity. As a result of this growing concern, VPNs have grown from being a tool used only by geeks to a mainstream service used by general people. Clearly, this clashes with the working of global intelligence agencies and leaves their insatiable appetite for surveillance unfulfilled, thereby upsetting them a little.
While using a VPN is legal in most countries, you're advised to check your local laws to know if VPN is legal in your country, because there are quite a few countries that have declared VPN usage illegal. Here's a run-down of the legality of VPNs in some of the biggest countries in the world and how the laws surrounding VPN usage affects their people.
Is VPN Legal in the USA?
Is VPN Legal in the UK?
Is VPN Legal in the EU?
Is VPN Legal in Russia?
Is VPN Legal in Australia?
Is VPN Legal in Saudi Arabia?
Is VPN Legal in UAE (Dubai)?
Is VPN Legal in Qatar?
Is VPN Legal in Iran?
Is VPN Legal in China?
Is VPN Legal in India?
As discussed above VPN is legal in most countries around the world. Some of the notable exceptions are authoritative regimes like that of North Korea which not only doesn't allow VPN, but also restricts access to the Internet as a whole.
Besides security, one of the most prominent uses of VPN is geo-unblocking. Several content providers impose geographic restrictions on their media due to complexities and costs involved in licensing music, movies and television shows. Using VPN to bypass such restrictions typically fall into a gray zone. While most countries don't have laws barring the use of VPNs to circumvent geo-blocking, users trying this might be in violation of the TOS (Terms of Service) of the content provider, and hence can be produced in court.
However, none of the major media services (including YouTube, Hulu, Spotify, and Netflix) have shown any inclination to target individual users. Besides the possibility of triggering a public backlash, it is an expensive affair to identify users located in different legal jurisdictions and prosecute them.
Let us know in the comments section if you've queries about any country not featured in the above list.
A blogger since the good old days of dial-up, an ardent food critic, a Computer Science Engineer and a lover of travel, I am here to rant about all things Windows.