VPN legality around the world: censorship and restrictions

While most of the world enjoys easy access to VPNs, a handful of countries face a tougher challenge.

I’ve provided a table with said countries and their current VPN status below. It’s quite clear that a similar political regime based on control and lack of personal freedom connects these regions.

Country Current VPN status
Belarus Banned
Iraq Banned
North Korea Banned
Oman Banned
Turkmenistan Banned
China Restricted
Iran Restricted
Russia Restricted
Turkey Restricted
The UAE Restricted

You may wonder what does Restricted mean in this case. It means that, instead of outright banning VPN usage, those countries have a list of VPNs that they approve of. Usually, VPNs that have government approval are based in the same country and can report back their users’ activity whenever needed.

But doesn’t a VPN lose its purpose when the government monitors it this much? Needless to say, it’s a rhetorical question.

Restricting freedom of speech is nothing new for some countries. They demonstrate that by banning popular social media and news outlets (usually associated with Western media). Since VPNs protect the fundamental human right to privacy, authoritarian regimes waste no time jumping on that as well.

Is it legal to use a VPN in the USA?

Currently, there are no laws restricting VPN usage in the US. And, as you can tell from the table above, none of the Western countries are on that – already short – list.

Obviously, a VPN isn’t a gateway to illegal activities just because it protects one’s privacy. No VPN providers commend criminal acts committed while connected to a VPN. Besides that, one tool isn’t going to protect criminals from legal trouble anyway since law enforcement has many means to track and catch perpetrators.

Can you get in trouble for using a VPN?

Unless you’re in a country where a VPN is banned – I cover that in the next section – you can use a VPN with peace of mind.

However, you shouldn’t expect a VPN to protect you from legal trouble if you engage in illegal acts while using it. Downloading copyrighted material falls into this category.

Simply put, as long as you stay within the legal framework of your country, you won’t get in any trouble for using a VPN.

Is it illegal to use a VPN for Netflix?

Using a VPN with Netflix is legal. There are no fines or punishments for it. However, the most popular streaming service doesn’t exactly encourage it.

Netflix blacklists a lot of IP addresses that VPN services use, that’s why the Netflix proxy error page is so common. A way to avoid that is not to use free VPNs – apart from being laggy, overridden with ads, and unsecured, a lot of the IP addresses that free VPNs use are already on Netflix’s blacklist.

Why do people question privacy protection tools?

There are tons of VPN myths on the internet. Why? I think a lot of it has to do with the intricacies of technology. It’s a vast, complex field that doesn’t come to us as naturally as locking our front door. We understand why we put the key in the keyhole when going out, but why do we need VPNs? We can’t touch a VPN, the same way that we can’t touch the internet or the threats that come with it.

While probably not being the single reason for questioning VPNs, the untouchable nature of internet security seems like a likely cause.

Another reason might be related to VPN use cases. While the purpose of a VPN is to secure your internet traffic, there are many other ways that people utilize this tool, from bypassing censorship to accessing blocked websites.

Let’s explore all those VPN use cases in the next section.

VPN use-cases: from companies to everyday people

VPN use-cases

You’ve probably heard YouTubers or your friends sharing their experiences about VPNs. But VPNs weren’t created for individual users at first. It was a digital security tool for big companies, meant to secure their assets and data.

However, these days, a VPN is just as useful for an everyday internet user. In times of digital profiling, targeted advertising, government tracking, and ever-increasing hacking attempts, protecting one’s privacy is a critical decision.

Why do we use VPNs?

  • To protect our online identity. Your IP address is one of the primary online identifiers. It’s tied to your real location and browsing history, which means that as long as you’re not using a VPN, it’s visible to pretty much anyone. 
  • To stay safe on public Wi-Fi. Hackers can easily steal your data, i.e., account credentials or passwords, through unprotected or fake public Wi-Fi networks.
  • To block trackers and malware. Websites you visit remember you because you leave “footprints” everywhere you go online. That’s how you end up with targeted advertising. Some of those websites can also be infected with malware. That puts you at risk of being hacked.
  • To bypass censorship. Some still think they can control what people do online. Blocking social media or news sites has become a modern way to control citizens, but with the help of a VPN, you can access anything you want.
  • To open up the world of entertainment. With a VPN, you can virtually travel to any location and access any TV show, movie, or a sports event. Unlock most Netflix libraries (choose from 10+ other Netflix libraries with Surfshark), join the early Peacock users, watch BBC iPlayer, and much more.
  • To save money online. While common, price discrimination based on location isn’t fair. Make sure you don’t overpay for a flight, rental, or a hotel with a VPN.

Disclaimer: If you need legal advice regarding VPN usage or specific country laws, please be sure to consult legal professionals, since we are not experts in the field and cannot provide you with legal assistance.

Let’s recap – are VPNs legal?

While there are countries that restrict or even block VPNs, they are perfectly legal in most of the world. It’s true that some people might use VPNs while engaging in illegal activities, but just like a car isn’t responsible for a traffic accident, a VPN isn’t responsible for the actions of cybercriminals.

VPNs play an essential role in ensuring digital security and privacy, as well as protecting users from wrongdoers that overstep their own legality.

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