In short, yes. VPNs are legal in most countries. However, some governments have placed restrictions on VPN use or banned the practice altogether. This way, they aim to control the population or maintain national safety. Using VPNs for illegal activities such as hacking or cyberstalking is also illegal and can land you into trouble. There are numerous legal uses of a VPN, including anonymous browsing and content streaming in different countries. A reliable VPN that offers anonymous browsing with great streaming quality is Surfshark:
Many people wonder whether it’s legal to use a VPN connection. In most parts of the world, especially in western countries, using a VPN is completely legal. The simple use of a VPN won’t land you in jail in these countries.
In short, yes. VPNs are legal in most countries. However, some governments have placed restrictions on VPN use or banned the practice altogether. This way, they aim to control the population or maintain national safety. Using VPNs for illegal activities such as hacking or cyberstalking is also illegal and can land you into trouble. There are numerous legal uses of a VPN, including anonymous browsing and content streaming in different countries.
A reliable VPN that offers anonymous browsing with great streaming quality is Surfshark:
But there are some countries whose governments don’t accept VPN use. Usually, these countries have dictatorial regimes or authoritarian leaders. Examples would be China, Russia, and Iran. This article explains which countries ban VPNs and why. It’ll also dive into many of the legal uses of a VPN!
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) creates a lot of possibilities and brings numerous advantages. You could use it to circumvent geographical restrictions on the internet and get access to information that normally wouldn’t be available in your country. A simple example would be BBC iPlayer. This service is meant only for the British public, living in the United Kingdom. However, if you were to use a VPN server based in Great Britain, you’d be able to access the website from Italy, Norway, or the USA as well.
When is Using a VPN Illegal?
To put it simply, using a VPN is illegal in two cases.
- It can be illegal due to a nation’s government having banned its use.
- It can be illegal when being used to commit illegal activities online. These activities include hacking, cyberstalking, and downloading and selling copyrighted information.
Sometimes circumventing geo-restrictions can also result in violations of the law or companies’ terms of service. For example, the use of a VPN to stream content on Netflix can constitute a violation of its terms of service. However, this does not make VPN use illegal. Instead, you may be subject to consequences such as cancellation or suspension of membership. Check out our FAQ for more information on this.
The following sections provide a breakdown of which countries ban or regulate VPN use and why.
Why is a VPN Connection Illegal in Some Countries?
VPN use is mostly forbidden in countries with authoritarian laws such as China, North Korea, and Turkmenistan. Governments in these countries limit internet freedom as well as the freedom of the press. Therefore, social media and critical news websites tend to be blocked for internet users in the country. The image below shows countries that use online censorship on a huge scale and their main motivations for doing so.
To get access to these blocked websites and online services anyway, many civilians, tourists, expats, journalists and whistleblowers use a VPN or proxy server. When using a VPN, they are all able to circumvent online censorship while also anonymizing all their online data.
This causes annoyance to the various Governments who then seek to ban VPNs. By banning VPNs, governments hope to achieve a few objectives:
- Control the information their citizens can access. Authoritarian regimes seek to create conformity and reduce dissent by exercising strict control over the information available to their citizens. This includes information available online.
- Monitor and register civilians’ internet behavior in order to maintain control.
- In some cases, VPNs are initially made illegal for safety reasons. Iraq, for example, decided to forbid the secure connection to make it easier to combat IS. Sadly, this means the rest of the population suffers the negative consequences of these laws. In a sense, they’re forced to give up part of their privacy for the sake of national security.
In Which Countries is Using a VPN Connection Forbidden?
We’ve already named a couple of countries where using a VPN isn’t allowed. For the sake of clarity, we’ve listed all countries known to block VPNs below. It isn’t always completely clear whether VPN connections are actually forbidden and what kind of punishment to expect when you do use one. Regardless, using a VPN in any of these places is a significant risk.
|United Arab Emirates||Highly Regulated|
What are Legal Uses of a VPN?
Luckily, in most countries, VPNs are legal. Despite their use being banned in the above nations, VPNs are considered an effective tool to ensure privacy and security online. After all, there are many good reasons to use a VPN. And many governments acknowledge the merits of VPN usage. Some of these are:
- Protection of individual privacy: Users who are concerned about their privacy use VPNs to browse the internet anonymously.
- Secure public browsing: Individuals using public wi-fi prefer to use VPNs to keep their traffic private and avoid any unwanted. interference with their connection.
- Transfer of sensitive information: Governments and enterprises use VPNs to secure communications and transactions that pertain to their work
- Unblocking: VPNs can be useful to avoid geo-blocking restrictions and make streaming content easier.
- Cybersecurity: People also make use of VPNs to prevent malicious cyber activities such as phishing, stalking and bullying.
For a deep dive into the reasons why you may want to use a VPN, we’d like to refer you to our full article on VPNs and their uses.
Why do VPNs Have a Bad Reputation?
After reading about all of these advantages, you may be wondering why VPNs have such a bad reputation despite having many legal and useful applications. The simple answer is that these applications of VPNs can also be used to conduct and cover up criminal activities.
In crime shows, you might hear about criminals hiding behind a VPN in order to hide their activities. Your favorite fictional FBI team could be unable to find a killer, because they bought their weapon with a VPN. Stories like this give VPNs a bad name, even though they’re just a tool one can use for both good and bad purposes.
For example, VPNs allow for anonymous and private browsing. While this is not illegal by itself, and is even recommended by various organizations and governments, it can also be used to conceal nefarious activities from law enforcement agencies. Illegal downloaders, for example, become less easy to track when they use a VPN. However, the downloading in itself is still illegal. If you don’t want to go with any of the major providers, you can even build your own VPN.
The use of VPNs for such illegitimate activities gives them a bad name, much like the Tor browser. However, it’s important to remember that the use of a VPN for legal reasons is completely acceptable in most countries. In fact, it’s an essential tool to maintain privacy in the digital age. So if you wonder if VPNs are legal, in most cases the answer will be yes. But there are certain countries where you should be careful.
If you have pressing questions about the legality of VPN use, our FAQ section will be of much help! You can click on any of the queries below to see answers to some of our most frequently asked questions. If your question isn’t answered, please feel free to leave a comment underneath this article. We’ll get back to you as soon as we can!
In most countries, VPNs are legal. Many governments even encourage that their citizens adopt safe internet practices, including the usage of VPNs, for added security and privacy. Government officials of certain countries are advised to use a VPN when travelling abroad, to protect themselves from surveillance by foreign states.
There are also countries where using a VPN is prohibited. The main reason for banning VPNs is that governments cannot keep track of people’s internet activities when a VPN is being used. And a VPN also enables people to circumvent government censorship. Needless to say, dictators and authoritarian leaders don’t want their citizens using VPNs.
It is not always easy to determine which countries are banning or restricting VPN use. But as per most recent reports, the following countries ban or heavily regulate VPN usage:
- North Korea
VPNs allow users to avoid geo-blocking and access content available in other countries. This can come in conflict with the terms of service of several service providers, such as Netflix. So, in some cases, streaming content using a VPN can result in an error or suspension/banning of your account. However, it does not usually amount to a crime.
Using a VPN is completely legal in most countries! In fact, it’s a great tool to protect your privacy and identity online.
However, in countries where using a VPN is illegal, its mere use can land you in jail depending on the punishment prescribed in domestic laws. It’s best to avoid their use in such circumstances.
In countries where VPN use is otherwise legal, you can still end up in jail if caught committing an illegal act while using a VPN.