Freedom of information is one of the first tenets of the internet. But recently, you may find that accessing the information you need from a particular geographical location is becoming more and more laborious. Thankfully, VPNs are the perfect solution for this.
Before subscribing to a VPN service, you might be wondering: are VPNs legal? And the short answer is yes. However, the long answer isn’t quite as straightforward, as their use is still restricted by some rules and regulations that differ across countries.
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What is a VPN?
Before we delve into the legality of VPN services, we should first explain what VPN even is. A VPN, short for Virtual Private Network, is a private means of connecting to the internet to guard your data against prying eyes and bypass geographical restrictions.
A VPN service creates a private, encrypted tunnel across a public network. The tunnel extends between your device and a remote server, and all your internet traffic is subsequently routed through that tunnel.
Most VPN providers offer a strict no-logs policy, ensuring that all your private information won’t be tracked and your online activity will remain anonymous.
Are VPNs Legal to Use?
The good news is that, for the most part, VPN services are legal to use in most countries around the world. This includes the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK, and EU nations.
However, while nothing is incriminating about using VPN technology itself, that doesn’t mean that people can’t use it for illegal activity. Simply put, if you use a VPN service to commit an act that would be deemed illegal without a VPN, such as copyright infringement and cybercrime, you’ll still be held accountable.
Where Is It Illegal To Use a VPN?
Unfortunately, the legality of VPN use varies from one country to the other. In some countries, primarily those where freedom of information is restricted, untraceable anonymous internet usage can be a problem for authorities. Therefore, some countries impose a complete ban or restrict the use of VPN services.
For example, the Chinese government has blocked the use of most VPN providers. That’s because the Great Firewall of China has banned access to various foreign websites within its borders, and a VPN can circumvent this ban.
The only exception is government-approved service providers. But the terms and conditions they must first agree to may compromise the user’s anonymity. Likewise, Iran only allows the use of VPN providers licensed with the government.
Some countries such as Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Iraq, Oman, and Turkey have entirely banned VPNs.
Others, including the United Arab Emirates, tightly control such services, only allowing organizations to use them while criminalizing their personal use for criminal purposes.
Legitimate Uses for a VPN
There are plenty of legitimate reasons for wanting to use a VPN that won’t get you in any trouble.
A VPN can help prevent the loss of intellectual property. Most corporations, governmental, and non-governmental organizations employ a VPN service to secure their workplace network and protect sensitive data. This is especially essential when employees work from home, as it adds an extra layer of security.
Additionally, using a VPN on a public Wi-Fi network can protect your data from being intercepted or hacked by tunneling your data through a secure private network.
Even on your home network, you can still use a VPN to maintain privacy and prevent governments, internet providers, or third parties from monitoring your internet activity.
It ensures that your IP address stays private and stops search engines from tracking your search history and identifying the real person behind the search queries. In turn, they can also curb targeted ads and other invasive marketing strategies.
Finally, you can use a VPN to get around geo-restrictions on blocked websites or even streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. However, keep in mind that the latter remains a grey area, and the service providers are within their right to ban your account for doing so.
The Bottom Line
Using VPNs may at first conjure up images of internet pirates and shady figures accessing the Deep Web or looking to hide unsavory practices. But that can’t be further from the truth.
If you’re wondering: are VPNs legal? Then, fear not. Using VPNs is perfectly legal in the United States as well as most countries around the world. As long as you don’t use a VPN to remain anonymous while engaging in illegal activities, there’s nothing to worry about.
The only exception to the rule is countries with strong internet censorship laws like China. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to check your state’s or country’s laws and regulations before subscribing to a VPN service.