Are VPNs Legal in the UK

Iraq only banned VPNs in recent years, but it has never had a good reputation when it comes to online freedom. While the country’s censorship measures are not as rigid as in North Korea or China, they still punish VPN users. However, even censorship is a restricted topic in Iraq, so it is difficult to find up-to-date info on VPN usage.

Are VPNs legal? Country guide for 2023

VPNs keep you private and secure online by hiding your IP address and routing your internet traffic through an encrypted connection to a VPN server. But is this service allowed everywhere? While using a VPN may be legal in most countries, some either restrict VPN services or ban them altogether. Read on to find out where you are free to use a VPN and what to be aware of in a country that restricts online freedom.

Dec 08, 2022
Время чтения: 17 мин.

  • Are VPNs legal to use?
  • Where are VPNs illegal?
    • China
    • Russia
    • Belarus
    • Türkiye
    • Iraq
    • United Arab Emirates
    • Oman
    • India
    • Iran
    • Egypt
    • Turkmenistan
    • North Korea
    • Uganda

    Are VPNs legal to use?

    Yes, VPNs are legal in most countries around the world, including the US, Canada, and most of Europe. However, you might risk heavy fines or even imprisonment for using a VPN in a country that bans it, for example, North Korea or Iraq. Some governments, like those of Russia and China, also restrict the use of VPNs, so you should be extra careful when choosing a VPN provider and using its services in those regions.

    It all depends on the country you are in. VPNs are illegal in countries with governments that practice online surveillance or censorship. This is because a powerful VPN like NordVPN helps you bypass those practices by hiding your IP address and online activities from authorities and internet service providers (ISPs).

    Some governments demonize VPN services, claiming that they are primarily used for illegal activities, so they declare VPNs illegal. Others enforce internet censorship laws. In both cases, such governments prevent people from enjoying the freedom the internet is meant to provide.

    But focusing on illegal activities misses the whole point of using a VPN because its positive application far surpasses the negative. Online privacy, security from hackers while using public Wi-Fi, safe communication on sensitive topics, and handling of confidential data are among the main advantages of a reliable VPN service.

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    Where are VPNs illegal?

    VPNs are illegal in North Korea, Belarus, Oman, Iraq, and Turkmenistan. In some other countries, including China, Russia, Türkiye, UAE, India, Iran, Egypt, and Uganda, only government-approved VPNs are legal, but these might allow the authorities to monitor users. This undermines the privacy a VPN is meant to provide, so we consider VPNs illegal in those countries and include them in the following list.

    China

    China heavily restricts and filters its traffic by using a variety of online blocks and filters, often referred to as the Great Firewall. That’s why you need a VPN to access restricted content. Any VPN used in China must meet government regulations, which means backdoor access, logs, and censorship.

    The country often blocks services that don’t comply with their VPN laws and rules, so this makes it a bit more complicated to use a quality VPN in China. However, we haven’t yet heard of many foreigners experiencing serious issues when using VPN services in China. NordVPN is a great option to use in China – it has an obfuscated servers function, which hides the fact that you use a VPN, so it is way more difficult to curb your connection on these grounds.

    Russia

    In 2017, Russia banned unapproved VPN providers. Which VPNs get approved? You guessed it – those that agree to log user data and provide it to the Russian government upon request. The country also banned the use of VPNs for accessing blocked content. But it is not illegal to use a VPN for other purposes.

    However, in 2019, Russia pursued its banning policies even further. Roskomnadzor, Russia’s federal service for supervision of communications, ordered the world’s leading VPN providers to provide the Russian government with access to their servers located in Russia. This is why we removed all our servers from Russia. The privacy of our users is of utmost importance to us, and we cannot comply with such requirements.

    PRO TIP: If you’re traveling abroad but want to access a device you left at home, you can use NordVPN’s Meshnet function. Meshnet allows you to connect multiple devices for remote access through secure encrypted tunnels.

    Belarus

    VPNs are illegal in Belarus along with the Tor network. They have been banned since 2015 as has any technology that provides users with online privacy. The dictatorial regime tries to maintain a stranglehold on internal internet traffic to avoid the circulation of potentially anti-governmental information.

    Türkiye

    While VPNs are not illegal in the country, their use is restricted. Türkiye also blocks some VPN providers alongside numerous mainstream social media platforms and websites. Authorities claim their goal is to prevent terrorism, but in this case, blocking VPN and social media services goes hand in hand with avoiding politically sensitive content.

    Iraq

    Iraq only banned VPNs in recent years, but it has never had a good reputation when it comes to online freedom. While the country’s censorship measures are not as rigid as in North Korea or China, they still punish VPN users. However, even censorship is a restricted topic in Iraq, so it is difficult to find up-to-date info on VPN usage.

    United Arab Emirates

    While VPNs are not restricted in the UAE, them for illegal activities or accessing websites banned by the government can get you in trouble. If caught using a VPN server, users may face a fine of at least $136,129. The UAE uses obscure wording in its laws, but it seems clear that VPN usage is strongly discouraged.

    Oman

    Oman explicitly forbids encryption of communications. However, a full implementation of this law would cut off the country from the majority of the World Wide Web, so it is a gray area. Naturally, VPNs are forbidden too. The catch, however, is that VPNs can be used by institutions or organizations approved by Oman’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).

    India

    In 2022, the Indian government ordered VPN companies operating in the country to start collecting and storing user data. VPN companies could then be compelled to share this information with the authorities. Failing to comply with these rules can result in jail sentences for VPN providers.

    While VPNs are not technically illegal in India yet, these new laws fundamentally undermine the ability of VPN providers to maintain a quality VPN service with servers in the country. For that reason, our NordVPN servers in India have been shut down.

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    Iran

    VPN providers are legal in Iran only if they’ve been approved by the government. Naturally, approved VPNs allow censorship and monitoring of users. So you will need to use an undetectable VPN to avoid being punished. Again, obfuscated servers can help you in this case.

    Egypt

    In Egypt, people attempting to accessed blocked websites via a VPN might face fines or jail time. While VPNs as such are not illegal in Egypt, you should use them cautiously and always take precautions. These might include using a double VPN feature or obfuscated servers. As always, for your own safety, you should refrain from all illegal activities while using a VPN.

    Turkmenistan

    VPNs are illegal and blocked completely in Turkmenistan. Any attempts to use them are tracked and subjected to penalties. This is one of the more extreme cases of VPN ban. Most citizens can only use Turkmenet, a heavily censored version of the telecommunication network. The state also acutely surveils and monitors all your online activities. Because of such an unusual internet setup, even advanced VPN tools like obfuscated servers won’t help.

    North Korea

    North Korea is considered one of the most repressive countries in the world, so strict internet regulation and restrictive VPN laws are par for the course. The government prohibits VPN use and monitors internet access. Similarly to Turkmenistan, most citizens are only allowed to use the country’s intranet. But the majority of the population doesn’t even have internet access or a telephone service.

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    Uganda

    Uganda is an odd example because it attempted to block VPNs not for political or surveillance reasons but for economic ones. Some years ago, the government decided to tax citizens for using social media, so people started using VPN services to bypass this regulation. The Ugandan government then instructed ISPs to block VPN users. However, many people have continued using VPNs since VPNs have not been declared illegal in the country.

    The growth of VPNs as a global tool for security, privacy, and internet freedom is a relatively recent phenomenon. Many countries with repressive tendencies that have not yet passed laws regulating their use may still be planning to do so. One of the best places to monitor potentially changing attitudes is Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net report.

    Why are VPNs legal?

    VPNs protect your online privacy and prevent criminals and cyberterrorists from accessing your online data. If you use a VPN service, you can browse privately and securely, even on public Wi-Fi.

    VPNs also protect your freedom of speech and help you evade censorship in oppressive countries. A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel for your data and hides your IP address, which obscures your online activities from trackers and makes handling sensitive data less dangerous. You can search for sensitive information and communicate it freely.

    How are VPN bans enforced?

    Countries with oppressive regimes practice the following methods to enforce bans on VPNs:

    • Require VPN providers to grant access to servers located in their territory. VPN providers that have a no-log policy do not comply with such demands, because it violates their terms of service. As a result, they cannot have servers in that country.
    • Use deep packet inspection (DPI). This method can be used to trace certain forms of VPN traffic, helping governments control information coming in and out of the country. It also allows them to monitor who is using a VPN.
    • Impose hefty fines on or even imprison those who are caught using a VPN.
    • Offer free VPNs issued or approved by the government, compromising your security and defeating the purpose of a VPN. The problem with free VPNs is that even the independent ones need to make money somehow. So they serve you ads, collect information about you, and/or monitor your traffic. They can then sell this information to governments, hackers, and other third parties.

    Are VPNs Legal in the UK

    If you live in or travel to the United Kingdom, you might be aware of the rules in place for monitoring Internet use. Since the passing of the Investigatory Powers Act in 2016, the British police and intelligence agencies have unprecedented access to your information and online activities.

    The best way to do so is, without a doubt, with a VPN. But because VPNs are so very effective at evading online surveillance, people often wonder about the legality of their use. It’s a common misconception that because they hide your identity online, their use is illegal.

    Is It Legal to Use VPNs in the UK?

    Short and to the point, yes, yes it is legal to use a VPN in the United Kingdom. There is not a single UK law which would forbid or prevent you from doing so. You’re well within your rights.

    The law says VPNs are legal in Britain

    One little thing to be careful of, however, is which VPN provider you choose. As you can see by browsing around this site a bit, there are a lot of them. And if you happen to pick one that operates out of the UK, you should know that they still fall under the auspices of the Investigatory Powers Act.

    Any VPN service based in the UK is obligated by law to provide information to the police and intelligence agencies when asked to do so, just like ISPs are.

    To properly protect your online privacy and anonymity, simply choose a VPN outside the UK. If searching around for one is not something you can currently invest time into, take a look at this list of recommended UK services instead. All have lots of UK servers, and all are out of the reach of British authorities.

    And to clarify, you can still get a British IP address by connecting to a VPN server in the UK. That is fine. The important part is making sure whatever VPN provider you use is based out of another country.

    Why Use a VPN in the UK

    Anytime you use a British ISP (be it at home, in a hotel, or on your mobile), they have a legal obligation to log every website you visit and every online service you use. They keep that information for a year.

    During that period, some 48 UK authorities may request, without a warrant mind you, access to those ISP logs.

    In other words, they can investigate what you have been up to on the internet whenever they please.

    A legal log from a UK internet service provider

    Police and intelligence agencies have other questionable powers too. They have the legal authority to hack into computers, smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices. Once again, the can do so as they deem fit. ISPs are obligated to help them with those efforts, as well as capture and decrypt data.

    A VPN is the safest and easiest way to protect yourself in the UK (and indeed, anywhere else in the world). It encrypts all traffic leaving and coming to your device. It also makes it appear as though the origin of that traffic is the VPN server and not you.

    The combination of these two features will leave your UK ISP, and by extension the government and intelligence agencies, in the dark.

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    About Tim Tremblay

    Tim is the founder of Fastest VPN Guide. He comes from a world of corporate IT security and network management and knows a thing or two about what makes VPNs tick. Cybersecurity expert by day, writer on all things VPN by night, that’s Tim. You can also follow him on Twitter and Quora.

    2 thoughts on “Are VPNs Legal in the UK”

    I’m using company WiFi, they’re now banning people from using a VPN. We work on an oil rig so we have no alternative source of Internet other than their own WiFi. Are they allowed to ban the use of VPN’s? I know it’s their network but it feels wrong. Reply

    Tim Tremblay

    Hi Jason. Unfortunately, as you say, it’s their network so they’re allowed to do as they please. That said, there are ways around VPN banning (which is how people in countries like China or Vietnam use VPNs despite them being banned there). VPN traffic can be disguised as regular HTTPS traffic and many VPN providers support this. NordVPN, for example, has a feature called obfuscated servers, and getting around VPN restrictions is exactly what it’s meant for. Reply

    Are VPNs legal in the UK?

    Are VPNs legal in the UK?

    A virtual private network (or VPN) is a service that allows you to reroute your internet connection through a private server to disguise your IP address and mask your internet activity from your ISP (internet service provider). In this article, we will examine the legality of using a UK VPN.

    Simply put, the best VPN conceals your location on the internet and make your online activities much harder to track. Because of the way VPNs work, hiding your online activities from various websites and the government, a lot of people wonder if they are legal.

    • Setup a VPN for any device with our simple, comprehensive guide

    VPNs are entirely legal in the UK

    There is no specific legislation that explicitly prohibits the use of VPNs in the UK. In fact, VPNs are completely legal in most countries of the world, with a few exceptions like China, North Korea, Iraq, and the UAE.

    It’s perfectly legal to use a VPN to enhance the security on your internet connection. You can also use one to bypass simple geographical restrictions set forth by streaming and torrenting services.

    For example, VPNs can be especially useful when trying to bypass content restrictions for services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer. A lot of these streaming services geo-block their content, meaning that you can only access them from a specific part of the world. Using a VPN, you can effectively bluff the website into thinking that your request is originating from a specific location, therefore bypassing any restrictions.

    With the introduction of intrusive surveillance laws like the Investigatory Powers Act of 2016, UK citizens face an increasingly challenging atmosphere navigating their privacy online. Using a powerful VPN can also help you reduce the government’s access to your data by hiding your online activity from your ISP.

    VPNs don’t make illegal acts legal

    VPNs don’t serve as the be-all-end-all solution to online privacy, and if you use them to commit illegal acts, the government can still use other means to track you down and hold you accountable.

    Just like any other tech company, VPN service providers can, under the Investigatory Powers Act of 2016, be compelled to divulge your internet activity to the government in the UK. While this isn’t something that’s very commonplace, it could still happen.

    Theoretically, VPN providers who don’t operate from within the UK are exempt from the Investigatory Powers Act. However, the government can still use other ploys to track down serious offenders.

    It is therefore extremely important that you don’t use a VPN for illegal purposes, and you should also abstain from downloading any pirated content, which although surprisingly commonplace on the internet, is thoroughly illegal.

    Why would someone in the UK want a VPN?

    In 2016, the UK Parliament adopted the Investigatory Powers Act, a piece of legislation that affords the government a huge amount of leeway when dealing with cybercrime. The government can, theoretically speaking, compel your internet service provider or social media platform to divulge your online activity at any point of time.

    This is a power that operates with little oversight, meaning it can be used to quash political dissent just as easily as to track down illegal activities. The UK is also part of Five Eyes, a multinational alliance comprising Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This alliance’s primary purpose is to thwart data encryption and upend online privacy in hopes of culling cyberterrorism.

    Another important reason for using a VPN is the geo-blocking feature enacted by streaming services like Netflix and Spotify. You can also use a VPN when travelling abroad to access services like BBC iPlayer from a restricted country like India.

    Which VPN do we recommend for users in the UK?

    ExpressVPN stands out from the competition in terms of price, features, and value. With servers in nearly 100 countries, excellent censor-evading power, blazing connection speeds, and reliable access to multiple streaming services, ExpressVPN has everything that one would need from a VPN in the UK.

    While some users may prefer certain features of other top VPNs, it’s the best overall option for most users – and now Tom’s Guide readers can claim three months absolutely free.

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    Ritoban Mukherjee

    Ritoban Mukherjee is a freelance journalist from West Bengal, India whose work on cloud storage, web hosting, and a range of other topics has been published on Tom’s Guide, TechRadar, Creative Bloq, IT Pro, Gizmodo, Medium, and Mental Floss.