We decided to finally (now it’s 2023) understand whether it is legal to connect to the Internet via a VPN, and at the same time to find out how things are in different countries. Spoiler: you can find many interesting examples on the world map.
Where else would a VPN be allowed if not here? In fact, in America there are no laws restricting the use of such services in any way.
Moreover, there are a lot of full-fledged VPN providers working here, whose services are available to the entire population. And many companies use their own VPN networks as a commercial tool:
- Unites all employees into a single network.
- Provides access to shared files and services remotely.
- Coordinates remote work.
However, there are also some difficulties with anonymous network use in the States. In particular, one cannot be sure that the data transmitted via a VPN will not become available to security services, because the USA is one of the most important members of Five/Nine/Fourteen Eye.
This is an alliance that was created to collect and share information to enhance mass security. And, as an active member of these alliances, the US has a legitimate reason to require VPN providers to provide access to user connection logs.
The past and the present of VPNs in Russia
The federal law prohibiting to avoid the block via anonymizers and VPNs was signed here back in 2017. The essence of the law was very universal: to oblige the owners of such services to restrict access to the information published online that is banned in the country.
All in all, it is a good idea, but it is too vague. After all, if you want, you can ban any kind of information, either it’s an article in a blog, or a website, or a social network, etc. For the requirements to establish a ban there was a full blocking of the service. Further, in the spring of 2019, Roskomnadzor obliged the owners of VPN services to integrate their algorithms with the registry of banned resources.
Still, is it possible to use a VPN in Russia? Or is it impossible? According to the Government Decree № 1279 of October 27, 2018, the technology of accessing the Internet via VPN itself is legal. Thus, from the legal point of view, it is allowed to visit blocked sites using a VPN in Russia. To be more precise, the user has no responsibility.
You are only responsible in case of committing one or another illegal action through a VPN. But again: here the fault will not be about the connection itself through the virtual network, but about the fact that you used it for criminal purposes.
The use of blocked resources does not fall under this qualification. If anyone can be sued, it is the ISP.
How are things in general in Europe?
Nowadays no country of the European Union has imposed strict restrictions on the use of VPNs. Here such services are seen as an opportunity to increase their security when working with the network.
But it is not the case everywhere. On the map you can find quite a few countries, in which the use of VPN is subject to severe penalties. Up to criminal liability.
Belarus: everything should be under control
However, everything is not as critical here as in some other places of the globe. It is forbidden to use VPN services in Belarus, but only if you plan to access the information that the state has decided to block.
In case a VPN is used for cybercrime or dissemination of prohibited information, the violator faces serious fines, and in some cases, actual jail time.
Belarus also has its own analog of the American “Big Brother” – a system of mass control of Internet traffic. With its help, special services can track and determine the data of users online. And if the system determines that the user is connected to a VPN and tries to bypass control or access prohibited information, you can get under the real law prosecution.
Today China is one of the largest economies in the world and provides the global trading system. Only the life of the population here is quite strictly regulated. Access to many foreign sites and services is closed and replaced by analogs of their own design.
Attempts to use what is so carefully forbidden are strictly suppressed here. This is exactly the case with VPN. In China at the state level all such services are considered illegal. The only exception is a small group of providers – of course, strictly controlled by the state.
On the technical side, setting up a VPN connection in the Celestial Empire is not easy either, because the Great Firewall of China works here. It is almost a self-learning network screen, which is developing so fast that it is hardly possible to keep up with it, and even more so to get ahead of it.
Throughout the whole territory, even in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which are popular among tourists, there are restrictive rules for the VPN use. It is not officially prohibited, but it is subject to a number of rules, the violation of which can lead to serious consequences.
For example, in the UAE there are laws regulating the use of the Internet and freedom of speech. In this way a lot of resources were unexpectedly banned. For example, you can not use Skype or WhatsApp here. And an attempt to enter them through a VPN can be considered as a law violation.
In addition, the UAE has legislation in the field of copyright and intellectual property. So, if a user uses a VPN to access content that infringes copyright, they can be penalized according to the law.
Therefore, in case you need to use a VPN in the UAE, it is advised to be careful when choosing the content you plan to view.
It is the most obvious ban in our review. In a country where only a few thousand very close people to the state have access to the Internet, and anonymity is out of the question, there is simply no need for VPNs.
But it would be a mistake to say that nobody uses virtual networks here at all. In fact, those very few people use them quite actively to access Western sources of information.
Here there are very strict laws and restrictions, and the whole life of society is strictly regulated:
- Domestic media are under total control.
- External media are simply not allowed.
You can’t use such popular services as Facebook, Instagram or YouTube here, they are all blocked. And no attempts to bypass them will help, because VPN services have been declared illegal here. The government of the country actively blocks access to them and monitors the accounts of their users. This policy is mainly aimed at controlling publications on the Internet.
Uganda: when a VPN interferes with budget replenishment
A unique case: in Uganda, the use of VPNs is banned not for political or ideological reasons, but for economic reasons!
In 2018, the local authorities decided that the craving of the population to social networks is a good opportunity to earn money, and introduced a tax on the use of social media. The tax was relatively small, but the users did not like it. Interest in VPNs began to grow, which then the government did not like. Therefore the government declared a real war on blocking bypassing technologies.
Both VPN service providers and ISPs, who were obliged to monitor and suppress attempts to connect via virtual networks, were in hot water.
However, the war was not won. The thing is that the country, which is far from being the most technologically advanced, did not have the technical capacity to block VPNs completely. So eventually the users celebrated the victory.
So, in different countries, the attitude to the VPN may differ: from (almost) complete freedom in the US to a complete ban in North Korea. But despite the differences in legislation and attitudes towards the technology from country to country, people increasingly start using it to ensure their online safety and privacy.