Are VPNs Legal? – Can You Get into Trouble for Using a VPN?

Miklos Zoltan

By Miklos Zoltan . 29 June 2024

Founder - Privacy Affairs

Justin Oyaro

Fact-Checked this

The legality of VPNs depends on the laws of the land. In most places, VPNs are legal.

In this article, you will learn:

  • Why are VPNs illegal.
  • Places where VPNs are illegal or prohibited.
  • How to choose a safe VPN.

Quick Summary

VPNs (Virtual Private Network) offer an excellent way of protecting your security and privacy over the internet. They also enable you to reclaim your online freedom.

In most countries, VPNs are legal since citizens have a right to online privacy. Nonetheless, using a VPN for illegal activities is prohibited in these free countries.

VPNs are illegal in authoritarian states with stringent internet censorship, and their usage is restricted. VPN connections can also be blocked altogether.

VPN use can land you in jail or a hefty fine in some states. Other repressive countries require VPNs to have licenses, which is how the government controls them.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

Summary: VPNs are generally lawful in the majority of countries, offering enhanced security and privacy for those browsing the internet.

However, in certain authoritarian countries, the use of VPNs is either outlawed or tightly regulated. This is because VPNs enable users to evade government surveillance and gain access to content that may be otherwise restricted.

When selecting a VPN, important considerations include the jurisdiction in which the VPN service is based, adherence to no-log policies, the range of security features offered, the ability to obfuscate VPN traffic, the quality of customer support, and the availability of money-back guarantees.

It’s crucial to refrain from using VPNs for illicit purposes. Additionally, exercise caution when opting for free VPNs; they often lack the comprehensive protection and dependability that paid VPN services provide.

Are VPNs Legal

Why are VPNs Illegal in Some Places?

A VPN service enables users to bypass restrictions, unblock websites, and freely express their opinions, which poses a significant threat to authoritarian regimes seeking to maintain tight control over their citizens.

In these regimes, VPNs are viewed as a threat to control, leading to their ban or the implementation of laws that make their use illegal.

Beyond oppressive governments, using a VPN for illegal activities is prohibited even in countries where VPNs are legal.

Illegal activities include using a VPN to commit crimes recognized both nationally and internationally, violating local laws, infringing on copyrights, and engaging in cyberbullying.

Even in regions where VPNs are legal, you may encounter restrictions, particularly in educational institutions and workplaces, where certain sites are blocked for valid reasons.

Websites such as social media are often viewed as distractions. While you may use a VPN service to unblock these websites, you could face serious consequences if you are caught.

Where are VPNs Illegal?

VPNs are illegal or partly illegal in authoritarian countries. Notable countries include:

Belarus: Due to the political situation in the country, VPNs, Tor network, and any anonymizing technology are illegal. Services such as Telegram are also blocked. Using either of them can be very dangerous at any given moment.

Iraq: To curb the extremist militant groups, Iraq declared VPNs illegal, and users can get punishments if caught. Additionally, social media and other chat apps are also blocked.

North Korea: VPN apps are illegal, and the country has banned access to the World Wide Web altogether. Trying to use a VPN in North Korea can land you in jail.

Citizens can access content via “Kwangmyong” – North Korea’s internal internet.

Turkey: VPNs are partly illegal. Although they are allowed, the government occasionally blocks VPNs since citizens can use them to unblock social media and other restricted sites and services.

Countries that Restrict VPN Usage

In these countries, VPNs are not illegal, but most overseas providers are blocked. In some countries, domestic VPNs must share user data with the government.

Moreover, using a VPN to access anti-government services and websites or perform illegal activities is prohibited.

Notable countries include:

China: VPNs are not illegal in China; however, the government only allows licensed VPN providers. Unlicensed VPN providers are blocked in the country.

China also uses the Great Firewall to block most VPN connections and restrict access to various websites, including Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and others.

Egypt: VPNs are not illegal, but the government imposes restrictions on their usage.

For instance, it is illegal to use a VPN to commit a crime, including accessing immoral content, VoIP apps, and anti-government content.

Russia: Most VPNs are banned or blocked to deter citizens from accessing prohibited content. Additionally, VPN providers who do not comply with the state’s law to share users’ information with the government or allow access to “prohibited content” are not welcome. A VPN server will also need to be located in Russia for it to be legal. Russia’s VPN ban is one of the harshest.

UAE: VPNs are legal; however, using a VPN to commit a crime or illegal activity can result in fines or jail time.

Accessing anti-government websites using Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime, and several other Voice over IP address (VoIP) services is considered a crime in the country.

Uganda: VPNs are not illegal, but their usage is restricted.

ISPs block VPN traffic because citizens use VPNs to circumvent the social media tax, which is supposedly cheaper than a VPN.

Venezuela: VPNs are legal in Venezuela; however, the government blocks some VPN sites to clamp down on internet freedom and rights to free speech.

Speaking of VPNs and Venezuela, check out our guide we made on Venezuela VPNs for more info.

How Some Countries Restrict VPN Usage

To restrict VPN usage, most countries sought repressive methods and ISPs to implement VPN blocks. These methods include:

  • Jailtime or hefty fines if you are caught using a VPN.
  • VPN providers need a license to operate. This is a way of ensuring that VPN providers share user data with the government. Thus, no-log VPNs won’t operate in such countries since they have nothing to share with the authorities.
  • Using VPN blocking techniques such as deep packet inspection (DPI). This is a powerful technique that can detect and block VPN traffic. It can also be configured to block incoming or outgoing traffic from specific services such as social media. ISPs mostly implement it in conjunction with the government.

Are VPNs legal in every other country not on this list? The answer is yes.

How to Choose a Safe VPN:

Besides impeccable security and privacy, you must consider other VPN aspects if you want to use a good and secure VPN service in authoritarian regimes.

These aspects add an extra layer of security and privacy and help bypass blocks and restrictions.

They are as follows:

  • Favorable jurisdiction: A VPN’s jurisdiction determines how it operates. You should choose a jurisdiction with strong privacy laws. A good jurisdiction doesn’t have mandatory data retention laws requiring VPNs to log user data. The jurisdiction should also not be a member of the surveillance alliances (5/9/14 eyes).
  • No-logs: In conjunction with a good jurisdiction, you should consider a VPN service provider that implements a proven strict no-log policy. With a no-log policy, the VPN won’t have anything to give if the authorities ask. Choose VPN providers that have been audited externally by reputable companies such as the Big 4.
  • Security and privacy-oriented features: These features add an extra layer of security and make sure your VPN connection is always secure. No one will be able to pry on your online traffic. They include leak protection, kill switch, double VPN, secure VPN protocols, Onion over VPN and other cybersecurity implementations (blocking ads and trackers).
  • Obfuscation/VPN scrambling: These features conceal your VPN traffic. They reshape the VPN traffic and make it look like normal HTTPS traffic. HTTPS is rarely blocked, and hence you can bypass VPN blocking techniques, including DPI.
  • Customer support: You should consider a VPN provider with 24/7 customer support. This is essential as you will readily get help concerning the VPN or how to bypass new restrictions in some countries.
  • Money-back guarantee: If you are trying to access content in countries where VPNs are illegal or restricted, at least make sure you have the best VPN for the job. You can test VPNs before fully committing to a subscription. This is possible via the money-back guarantee policy – if the VPN doesn’t work, you get your money back.

It would help if you also avoided free VPNs, which are generally unreliable and sometimes even sell data to governments.

A free VPN generally does not work with streaming services such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix US, or Hulu.

And speaking on the BBC iPlayer and VPNs, our guide on how to watch the BBC iPlayer in the USA will give you more info about unblocking options.

In addition to helping you unblock BBC iPlayer, a reliable VPN is essential for accessing Netflix libraries globally; our recommendations for the best Netflix VPN can guide you in making the right choice for this purpose.

Also check out my guide about having Netflix unblocked.

Wrap Up

A VPN is an excellent tool for safeguarding your online privacy and security. You can use a VPN in most places globally, except in autocratic regimes where VPNs are illegal. VPN usage can also be restricted in some countries or various institutions.

Additionally, to be safe regarding the laws of the land, don’t use a VPN for illegal activities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some people found answers to these questions helpful

Is it legal to unblock content using a VPN?

It is permissible to use a VPN to unblock restricted content unless when clearly stated it is not. Ensure you know the laws of the land in accordance with VPN usage. Accessing legally blocked content or illegal content can have serious consequences.

Can I be tracked while using a VPN?

With a no-log VPN, your online footsteps are invisible. A VPN uses powerful encryption to keep your online traffic and connections safe from prying eyes. Your ISP (Internet Service Provider), interested third parties, and even the authorities won't know what you are doing online.

Is using a VPN illegal for unblocking Netflix?

No. Although unblocking Netflix catalogs worldwide breaches their terms of use, Netflix has not banned or suspended involved accounts. Instead, Netflix blocks VPN connections, and it is getting better each day.

Is using a VPN illegal for torrenting?

No. Using a VPN to torrent content is not illegal. However, torrenting is usually frowned upon since it creates an avenue for exchanging pirated illegal content. Even if you are torrenting allowed content, your connection can be blocked.

Which VPNs are legal to use?

The laws of the land heavily determine VPN usage. In most countries, all VPNs are legal to use, and you have the liberty to choose the VPN provider that will protect your online privacy and security.

Are VPNs legal in the United States?

Yes, VPNs are legal in the United States. The United States does not have any restrictions on VPN use or VPN legality. A VPN user will never break the law by just buying a VPN subscription.

Leave a Comment