As long as you’re in a country that hasn’t outlawed or restricted the use of VPNs, you’re probably not going to get into trouble. It really comes down to what you’re using your VPN for and what country you are currently in. The FBI actually encourages US citizens to use VPNs to secure their data.
There are some countries like China, Russia, and North Korea where VPNs are clearly marked as illegal and there are active laws against VPN usage. Countries like Vietnam don’t explicitly outlaw VPNs, but Vietnamese citizens can still get into trouble depending on government censorship.
The United Arab Emirates is a unique case in that it has active laws specifically outlining the usage of VPNs. They’re legal unless used for illegal activity outlined in their laws. When it comes to legalities or illegalities, whether using a VPN is allowed or not really depends on the jurisdiction you’re in and what laws are stipulated there.
What is the Purpose of a VPN?
To first understand if a VPN is legal or not we need to understand what VPNs are and what they’re meant to be used for.
VPNs or Virtual Private Networks started out as only available to commercial companies and governments. It was a way to secure internet traffic and protect hackers from gaining information coming from commercial web traffic.
As the internet became more popular with private consumers, the presence of viruses rose with it. This naturally led to consumer demand for a secure way to access the internet and protect personal data. This is when the predecessors of VPNs became popularized and available to the public.
Legal Uses of VPNs
Today VPNs are used to secure users’ data. Some examples of this would be accessing your banking information outside of your home network, like at a coffee shop. Connecting to a public network puts your data at risk and potential hackers have the ability to access your information from the unsecured network.
Using a VPN encrypts your data and allows you to access your banking information in a secure way.
Potential Troubles with VPNs
Another reason to use a VPN would be for streaming services. This is a bit of a grey area. Although not explicitly illegal, using a VPN for popular streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu is against the terms of service of most streaming sites.
This is especially true for the Netflix platform when users switch geographical regions with a VPN to get access to different Netflix libraries.
The reason this falls into a grey area is that Netflix pays for licenses to stream certain content and has to negotiate deals with different regions. For example, most of your favorite Korean dramas won’t be available outside of the Korean Netflix region because Netflix’s contract with that content only applies to that region.
Can I Use VPNs for Streaming?
Yes, but there are some caveats. As mentioned earlier, it’s against the terms of service, and Netflix reserves the right to cancel your subscription and ban you from the platform if they choose. Netflix is aware that people do this but to this day has never banned any account for using a VPN.
Illegal Uses of VPNs
VPNs are a great way to protect yourself and your data, but they can also be abused and may get you into trouble if you don’t know the rules.
Using a VPN to mask your IP address or internet traffic for any illegal activities is illegal. These activities include illegal downloads like torrenting or bypassing geographically-locked websites to gain access. That may sound similar to streaming services but there are no clear laws written for streaming.
If You’re in a country where gambling online is illegal, you may be able to access online gambling sites with a VPN, but it’s still illegal. If caught, you’ll usually forfeit any money you’ve placed into your account and most likely will be permanently banned in addition to facing penalties in accordance with your local country’s laws.
If you’re unsure about whether or not you’ll get in trouble for using a VPN, you can follow a few simple guidelines. First, check your country or region to ensure there are no laws prohibiting VPNs.
Second, identify the reason for use. Typically, if you are using a VPN for personal use to protect your data, it’s probably going to be legal and you won’t get into trouble. If you’re using it to connect to legal streaming services, nobody has had legal action taken against this type of activity, but you always run the risk that sometime in the future you could have your account banned.