Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have become increasingly popular across the globe. Since they encrypt internet traffic and mask a user’s IP address, they are ideal for unblocking content and improving privacy. Of course, while they offer positive aspects for users, not everyone is going to be happy with the widespread use of VPNs. Indeed, they endure their fair share of controversy.
VPNs are utilized for a variety of reasons. They might be used by companies wanting to step up information security or by individuals and families protecting their privacy online. Additionally, the nature of VPNs means they can be used to unblock geo-restricted sites. A VPN is useful for travel abroad in countries where social media sites like SnapChat, Instagram, and Facebook are banned. It also means they can provide access to geo-specific versions of streaming sites like Netflix.
While VPNs can offer a multitude of perks, people often hesitate over concerns that their use might not be legal. For the most part, however, they are perfectly legal and indeed safe to use. We say for the most part because certain countries have clamped down on the use of VPNs, by making the provision of these services illegal, blocking VPN provider sites, or other restrictive means.
Although few countries have taken a stance against VPNs, it’s likely only a matter of time before more follow suit. Restriction to VPN access often goes hand-in-hand with extreme government censorship, such as is seen in China and Russia. Therefore, monitoring each government’s overall approach to protecting the digital rights of its citizens can offer clues as to what we might see in the future.
In this article, we’ll reveal the stance of each country on VPN usage. For each one, we’ll also provide an overview of online censorship or restrictions imposed by the government or other parties.
In Afghanistan, even though internet users represent a small portion of the population, VPNs are popular among them, partly due to the blocking of many sites. Although the government is strict when it comes to sites such as those related to gambling and alcohol, the use of VPNs is legal.
In Albania, citizens’ freedom of speech and press are protected by the constitution. The internet in Albania is not subject to censorship by the government and VPNs are legal in the country. An Albanian domain registrar recently made the news for blocking a controversial neo-Nazi site, but there was no implication the government was involved and it was a purely the decision of the company.
Algeria has a history of its government blocking sites, including those with certain political content and social media sites. Additionally, ISPs are required to monitor online content and residents can face criminal charges for posting or allowing the posting of certain content. In spite of this, VPNs are legal in Algeria.
According to the 2016 Andorra Human Rights Report, “The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.” Andorra affords its citizens uncensored use of the internet and there are no bans on VPNs.
The use of VPNs is legal in Angola, although the country does have a history of internet censorship. In November 2016, a crackdown on social media was made very public by the Angolan president. He passed the controversial Press Law which many argue poses a serious threat to free speech.
Antigua and Barbuda ✔
The citizens of Antigua and Barbuda can enjoy unrestricted use of the internet and there is no ban on VPN usage.
Citizens of Aruba can use the internet without restrictions and VPNs are legal in the country.
While you might consider Australia a less rigid country in terms of censorship, its government is in fact allowed to block access to certain sites, including those used for torrenting. Additionally, telecom companies are required to record user data, such as email and location metadata. As such, VPNs are increasingly popular in the country, and are indeed legal.
The use of VPNs in Austria is legal, and its constitution ensures that the free speech and press of citizens is protected.
The Azerbaijani government has been known to arrest and punish activists. They also apply censorship to the internet, including social media sites and independent news outlets. In spite of this, there are no reports of VPN usage being made illegal.
Bahamas, The ✔
VPNs are legal in The Bahamas. However, there have been reports of the government attempting to introduce censorship.
VPNs are legal in Bahrain even though there is internet censorship in the country. Last year, the government centralized its restrictive powers under the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA). This means that the TRA has full control over a website-blocking system that must be utilized by all telecom companies.
The use of VPNs in Bangladesh is legal. However, the country’s government has banned certain sites in the past including social media sites like Facebook. It has also been known to shut down the internet completely, both ‘by mistake’ and on purpose.
Barbados citizens enjoy use of the internet without restrictions, and the use of VPNs is legal.
Belarus ❌ ✔
Belarus’ is one of few governments that has tried to crack down on the use of VPNs. In fact the country has banned any technology that anonymizes internet usage. While they’re not exactly illegal, VPNs along with Tor have been added to the list of sites with limited access. It was announced in 2015 that Tor would be blocked and it appeared that the block actually came into effect late 2016. Even though it’s frowned upon and users may face fines if caught, VPN use still remains popular in the country.
The use of VPNs in Belgium is legal. However, there have been cases of internet censorship reported.
Belize has also been the subject of news surrounding internet restrictions, including the government blocking of VoIP for a period of time. However, the use of VPNs is legal.
The citizens of Benin can use the internet without restriction and the use of VPNs here is legal.
The use of VPNs is legal in Bhutan. However, the government does impose restrictions on content that goes against its moral beliefs.
Bosnia and Herzegovina ✔
The government of Bosnia and Herzegovina has tried to criminalize certain social media activities, but there is currently no actual internet censorship. The use of VPNs is legal here.
The citizens of Botswana can use the internet without restriction and the use of VPNs is legal.
While VPNs are legal in Brazil, there has been some issue with internet censorship in the country. The government tried to introduce a number of restrictions in 2016. There was also the temporary WhatsApp ban of 2015, although the ruling that resulted in this was quickly overturned.
When it comes to internet usage, Brunei citizens have been the subject of government monitoring. There have also been reported cases of charges laid as a result of social media posts. The use of VPNs is, however, legal.
While VPNs are legal in Bulgaria, the government is seeking more control over internet usage. It also currently monitors online activity, requesting that ISPs provide real-time access to internet traffic.
Burkina Faso ✔
Internet usage isn’t very widespread in Burkina Faso, but it is unrestricted. VPN usage is legal in this country.
Burundi is another country where only a small portion of the population actually use the internet. However, users are subject to censorship, and in the past have had social media chat platforms like WhatsApp banned during times of unrest. The use of VPNs here is legal.
VPNs are also legal in Cambodia, but the country does have a past associated with internet monitoring and censorship. The Cambodian government actively monitors online activities, suppressing free speech. There have been numerous cases in which opposition members have been arrested for social media posts.
Cameroon also has a history of internet controversy. There have been multiple shutdowns this year involving the Anglophone regions of the country, affecting around one fifth of the country’s population. Aside from orchestrating these politically-motivated blackouts, the Cameroonian government also actively preaches against social media, with one government-controlled newspaper, the Cameroon Tribune, stating that social media is “fast becoming a threat to peace and a secret instrument of manipulation…” Cameroonians can however use VPNs legally.
While Canada is considered one of the most free countries in the world, it does have some unenviable laws surrounding data retention, mass surveillance, and net neutrality. The use of VPNs in Canada is legal, although there has been talk of plans to block them in the past. This talk has been further fuelled by calls from telecommunication giants like Rogers.
Cape Verde ✔
The citizens of Cape Verde enjoy unrestricted access to the internet and the use of VPNs is legal here.
Central African Republic ✔
VPN usage is legal in the Central African Republic. However, the country has been known for citizen censorship, notably in banning text messages during a period of unrest.
When it comes to internet usage, the citizens of Chad are monitored and restricted by their government. The monitoring becomes particularly prevalent during elections and complete internet shutdowns have been reported. VPN usage is, however, legal.
While VPNs are legal in Chile, citizens have been the subject of internet monitoring in the past. Moreover, data retention laws in the country are progressing but their ambiguity has caused ongoing criticism.
With China’s ‘Great Firewall’ in full effect, VPNs have become extremely popular with residents and visitors. The Firewall blocks many popular websites including Google, Facebook, and YouTube. To support the movement, the government has seriously cracked down on VPNs by blocking the websites of providers. However, this doesn’t always prevent people from actually using a VPN as you don’t necessarily need access to the VPN website to use one of its native apps. China has also been reported to use Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to detect and block VPN traffic. However, some VPNs can use superior cloaking technology to avoid detection. Meanwhile, the use of a VPN isn’t flat-out illegal, but there have been select cases of VPN providers being arrested and sentenced. In 2017, VPN apps were removed from the China Apple App Store upon government request.
Colombian citizens can legally use VPNs and enjoy mostly unrestricted access to the internet. Although, there have been past reports of online monitoring by the US government. The Colombian government has also been in the news for regulations surrounding Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. While it banned Bitcoin early in 2017, it has since lifted the ban, and is instead imposing taxes on Bitcoin investment earnings.
Residents of Comoros have uncensored internet access and the use of VPNs in this country is legal.
Congo, Democratic Republic of the ✔
VPNs are still legal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, there have been many reports in the past regarding internet censorship including politically-motivated internet shutdowns. One of the most recent reports spoke of a government order to block the uploading of images to social media.
Congo, Republic of the ✔
Citizens of the Republic of the Congo have been known to face censorship and the government has even been known to completely shut it down. However, the use of VPNs is still legal here.
Costa Rica ✔
VPNs are also legal in Costa Rica, although the country has seen some controversy around internet freedom laws.
Côte d’Ivoire ✔
Residents of Cote d’Ivoire enjoy unrestricted access to the internet and are able to legally use VPNs.
VPNs are allowed in Croatia and citizens can use the internet without any issues of censorship.
The Cuban government is known for imposing strict censorship on internet usage, mainly in relation to blocking websites which it deems critical of the revolution. However, VPNs remain legal.
While freedom of the press has come under question in Curacao, there are no reports of online censorship. The use of VPNs here is legal.
The Cypriot government does not impose any censorship on internet usage and VPNs are legal here.
Czech Republic ✔
VPNs are also allowed in the Czech Republic. While residents are reportedly the least-restricted users on the internet, there have been moves by the government to try to exercise more control. In 2016, it tried to introduce a system that would require users to have their own unique internet ID, although this proposal was met with much protest.
The government in Denmark does have the ability to impose online censorship in certain cases. It has also mistakenly blocked sites including Google and Facebook in the past. However, VPNs are legal in Denmark.
The use of VPNs is legal in Djibouti but its citizens don’t exactly enjoy unrestricted use of the internet. They are all served by a single government-owned provider. This means lack of privacy as well as high prices.
Residents of Dominica don’t experience censorship when it comes to the internet and VPNs are legal here.
Dominican Republic ✔
The use of VPNs is legal in the Dominican Republic and its citizens enjoy unrestricted access to the internet.
Ecuador does have a history of internet controversy with regards to the government illegally restricting access to certain sites. However, VPNs are legal in this country.
The use of VPNs in Egypt is legal, even though the country has a well-publicized history of cases where citizens’ rights of press were violated. As for internet use, the government has recently blocked VoIP services on apps like FaceTime and Skype.
El Salvador ✔
El Salvador has often been in the news regarding issues related to freedom of information, but there have been no solid reports of online censorship. The use of VPNs in the country is still legal.
Equatorial Guinea ✔
Residents of Equatorial Guinea can legally use VPNs. However, this country’s government is infamous for issues regarding citizens’ freedom of the press.
Eritrea is another country renowned for its censorship. However, with such a low percentage of the population having internet access, this isn’t a medium that the government imposes much control over. For now, the use of VPNs is legal.
Estonia, on the other hand, is renown for being a free country and actually topped the Freedom on the Net 2016 index. As anticipated, the use of VPNs in Estonia is legal.
VPNs are allowed in Ethiopia, although it’s hard to believe that it will remain this way, given the country’s history with censorship. The Ethiopian government actually made the use of VoIP services a crime with a sentence of up to five years in prison.
The citizens of Fiji can enjoy unrestricted access to the internet and can legally use VPNs.
While the use of VPNs here is legal, the Finnish government does have a bit of a history with internet censorship, namely a botched filtering initiative that stirred up more than a little controversy.
The French government can actively monitor internet usage with the main goal of preventing terrorism and related crimes. A recent anti-terrorism bill serves to bolster surveillance powers by the police. As for censorship, the government blocked thousands of websites last year. However, it has also been known to vigorously protect the privacy of its citizens, including imposing a hefty fine on Facebook for the way it tracks user data. The use of VPNs in France is legal.
Citizen’s of Gabon can legally use VPNs, but are not all that free when it comes to general internet usage. Aside from temporary shutdowns and permanent blocking of sites like Twitter, the government here even imposed an internet curfew such that residents could only surf the web for 12 hours during the day and not at all at night.
Gambia has been known to restrict internet access, namely during election periods. However, the use of VPNs here is legal.
VPN usage is legal in Georgia. Although, the country has been back-and-forth when it comes to general monitoring and censorship. In the past, there was a lot of gray area with regards to how closely internet activity was being monitored and by whom. However, a law was recently passed that ensures increased privacy for users.
Germany has seen its fair share of controversy with respect to the government and the internet. As a result of the intent to censor social media, there has been much backlash from privacy advocates. That being said, the use of VPNs in Germany is legal.
VPNs are legal to use in Ghana, and this is recognized as one of the most forward-thinking African countries with regards to freedom and democracy. However, this country isn’t squeaky clean; a recent politically-motivated social media shutdown met with plenty of resistance.
There are reports that Greece’s government is trying to impose internet censorship through site blocking. Even so, the use of VPNs in Greece is legal. You can find out how to get a Greek IP address with any one of our top VPNs.
VPNs can be legally used in Grenada, although its citizens have been subjected to restrictions when it comes to online activities. For example, a now defunct law meant that people could be heavily fined for insulting someone online.
Guatemala is not known for its freedom of speech, and it’s unlikely citizens of this country enjoy much privacy online. However, the use of VPNs in Guatemala is legal.
Residents of Guinea get unrestricted internet access and can legally use VPNs.
VPNs can be legally used in Guinea-Bissau where citizens can also use the internet without restriction.
Internet in Guyana is not censored or restricted by the government and VPNs are legal here.
The use of VPNs is legal in Haiti, where citizens don’t have to worry about censorship when it comes to internet usage.
The use of VPNs in Honduras is legal, although internet usage has been controlled by the government in the past.
Hungary has a history of censorship in various forms. Multiple cases of media censorship have been reported over the years and more recently the government tried to impose a law banning end-to-end encryption. However, the citizens of Hungary can legally use VPNs.
Iceland is known for its lack of censorship in general and this indeed applies to internet usage too. As expected, VPNs are legal in Iceland.
In 2022, India’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) announced a rule that requires all VPN providers to collect and report identifying data from their users for five years. As a result, many VPN providers have removed their servers from the country.
The use of VPNs is legal in India, although there are regular restrictions imposed on internet users. The government is able to simply ask providers to go offline, and blackouts in specific areas are common, especially during times of protests.
Indonesian citizens also experience censorship when it comes to internet usage, with the government blocking certain sites like Reddit, Vimeo, and Netflix. However, VPNs are legal in the country.
Iran ❌ ✔
VPNs are legal in Iran, but with a very large caveat. People can only sign up with a VPN provider that is registered and approved by the government. Since one of the main reasons for VPN usage is to access government-blocked sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, then this caveat renders government-approved VPNs useless to many. Using the type of VPN that would be useful to most people is not legal and carries a penalty of 91 days to one year in jail. That being said, arrests are rare as the government is reportedly less concerned with people accessing sites like Facebook and are more interested in using the VPN law to prosecute users opposing the government itself.
A new bill proposed in 2022, if passed, would make production or distribution of VPN and proxy services a crime in Iran. The “User Protection Bill” would also punish ISPs that allow unlicensed foreign services—possibly including VPNs—to access Iranian user data.
Internet usage in Iraq is heavily restricted. The government blocks social media sites, chat apps, and more. VPNs are not immune to these restrictions and their usage has been banned, reportedly to prevent ISIS manipulating social media.
The use of VPNs is legal in Ireland, although residents do experience some censorship when it comes to general internet usage.
Internet use in Israel was mostly uncensored in the past, but certain websites and inciteful or hateful social media posts have been blocked. A recent law was passed that will allow the government to block more websites in order to help fight crime. The use of VPNs here is legal.
VPNs are legal in Italy and the country’s citizens enjoy freedom when it comes to general internet usage.
Residents of Jamaica can access the internet without government restriction and can legally use VPNs.
The use of VPNs in Japan is legal, and the internet is generally restriction-free. However, with societal attitudes changing, there could be shifts on the horizon with regards to censorship.
The Jordanian government does censor some internet content. This is most prevalent around political issues, but one recent report has highlighted the censorship of LGBT people in Jordan.
Although VPNs are still legal, the government has temporarily blocked them in specific areas during times of unrest, particularly around March and April 2021. Several major VPNs were blocked after users in Jordan used them to access Clubhouse, an audio sharing app.
VPNs are allowed in Kazakhstan, although the country’s government is known to impose censorship on general internet usage. Most recently, there were reports of a social media crackdown to target human rights activists.
Kenya is known for its lack of censorship and internet freedom is no different. The use of VPNs here is legal.
Citizens of Kiribati can legally use VPNs and enjoy unrestricted internet access.
Residents of Kosovo are rightly wary about their privacy when it comes to the internet. Their government has access to all electronic communication data as a result of their telecommunication interception laws. In spite of this, VPNs are legal.
VPNs are allowed in Kuwait, although the country’s citizens do experience censorship related to internet usage. In particular, its cybercrime law has been construed as restricting freedom of expression.
Kyrgyzstan is renown for its censorship, especially when it comes to politics and journalism. That being said, VPNs are still legal in the country.
The residents of Laos can legally use VPNs, even though censorship is prevalent, especially when it comes to the internet. Laos citizens are not even immune when they leave the country. According to one report, three Laos nationals were arrested and made to publicly apologize for creating anti-government social media posts while living in Thailand.
Latvia is known for being a very free country and this extends to internet usage for its citizens. As expected, VPNs are legal here.
Lebanon, on the other hand, is infamous for its censorship, including that related to internet usage. The government once tried to make VoIP illegal but the move was met with massive resistance. Even so, VPNs are still legal in Lebanon.
The low proportion of Lesotho residents who use the internet do so without censorship. They can also legally use VPNs.
While using a VPN is legal in Liberia, residents here do experience censorship and surveillance. Additionally, due to instances of censorship, press freedom is deemed restricted in the country.
There have been various reports from Libya that accuse the government of internet restrictions and interference. However, there is no ban on VPNs in the country.
The use of VPNs by Liechtenstein residents is allowed and the country is known for its lack of censorship.
Overall, Lithuanian residents can enjoy the internet freely. However, there have been a couple of instances that could be construed as censorship, such as the regulation of online gambling sites. That being said, VPN usage is legal here.
Luxembourg citizens can legally use VPNs and access the internet without restriction.
The residents of Macedonia are allowed to use VPNs and can access the internet without the government imposing censorship.
The Madagascar government has yet to restrict the internet, although the country is not without media censorship. The use of VPNs here is legal.
VPN usage is allowed in Malawi and general use of the internet is without restriction.
Malaysia has made the news in the past over issues with internet censorship, most notably during a corruption scandal involving the Prime Minister. There have also been reported cases of bloggers and social media users being arrested for airing controversial views. However, residents can still legally use VPNs here.
Maldives, The ✔
The use of VPNs in the Maldives is legal, although the country’s citizens do experience internet censorship. In particular, the government has been known to block dissident and anti-Islamic sites.
Internet users in Mali can enjoy unrestricted access, and the use of VPNs here is legal.
Malta’s citizens are allowed to use VPNs. However, there are concerns around censorship of the internet in general. Some outlets claim that new media laws surmount to censorship, while the government denies this is the case.
Marshall Islands ✔
There is no history of residents of the Marshall Islands experiencing internet restrictions, and the use of VPNs here is legal.
While VPNs are still legal in Mauritania, the country has a murky past when it comes to internet censorship. There have been reported incidents of the government disregarding digital rights and it is believed that cybercrime laws cause the press to self-censor their information.
The Mauritian government has, at times, imposed restrictions on the internet, including filtering harmful or illegal content. However, there doesn’t seem to be recent reports to suggest that censorship is ongoing. What’s more, VPN usage in Mauritius is legal.
The citizens of Mexico are allowed to use VPNs and enjoy unrestricted access to the internet. However, this may be temporary as there have been moves made in the past to try to enact surveillance laws.
Micronesia residents have access to an uncensored internet and can legally use VPNs.
There have been inklings of internet censorship in Moldova, although usage remains mostly unrestricted. Also, the use of VPNs is legal here.
The residents of Monaco can legally use VPNs and have unrestricted access to the internet.
Mongolia is known for its widespread internet censorship including a long list of words that are banned. Even so, the use of VPNs here is legal.
While VPNs are legal in Montenegro, the country does have a history of internet restriction, including blocking messenger application WhatsApp during an election.
Morocco has banned lots of popular methods of online communication, including platforms like Skype and Facebook Messenger. Nonetheless, VPNs are legal here.
Mozambique citizens can legally use VPNs and it’s likely that they’d want to. With the government spying on everything from telephone calls to chat platform messages, a VPN might be the only thing that could help.
In January 2022, Myanmar’s military junta proposed a new cybersecurity law intended to target opponents of the new regime. Officials will be able to stop people on the street to check their phones for VPNs and other privacy software used to access banned sites and apps. Anyone found in possession of unauthorized VPN software could spend up to three years in prison. Reports suggest this is already happening even though the law has not yet been passed.
The Junta has heavily censored the web since it took power in 2021, leading to increased demand for VPNs.
Namibian residents can legally use VPNs and have access to an uncensored internet.
Nauru has been in the news for enforcing internet restrictions, such as banning certain social media sites. However, VPNs are legal in the country.
Citizens of Nepal are allowed to use VPNs and can freely access the internet for the most part. However, there has been a history of blackouts and content filtering, and the government has made it clear that it wants to censor online activity.
The Netherlands government doesn’t impose restrictions on the internet and VPNs are legal to use.
New Zealand ✔
New Zealand residents are allowed to use VPNs, although their online activity is subject to monitoring by the government.
The Nicaraguan government does not explicitly monitor or restrict online activities. The use of VPNs here is legal.
Citizens of Niger can legally use VPNs, and the tiny portion of the population that uses the internet can do so without restriction.
Nigeria has been at the centre of controversy when it comes to internet censorship involving social media. However, the use of VPNs here is legal.
North Korea ❌ ✔
North Korea is infamous for its censorship, with the government having blocked access to multiple social media sites. Instead of the internet, citizens of the country only have access to “Kwangmyong,” a national intranet. North Korea has also banned its diplomats from accessing the internet while overseas. Visitors to the country can access the internet via 3G but may not use VPNs. On the subject of VPNs, it’s not crystal clear whether or not they are legal. Some reports state that they are illegal, while others imply that certain providers are allowed.
Norwegian citizens can legally use VPNs and can access the internet without worrying about government censorship or restrictions.
Oman ❌ ✔
While it’s not actually illegal to use them, many VPNs (those not sanctioned by the government) are blocked in Oman and have been since 2010. This is not all that surprising since the government heavily censors the internet and has published an ‘Internet Service Manual’ detailing possible criminal online activity. Also, it’s not uncommon to hear of arrests of bloggers and activists who have expressed controversial views online. The main use for VPNs in the country is bypassing the ban on VoIP services such as Skype and WhatsApp and to access geo-restricted content such as various Netflix libraries.
Related: How to blog anonymously.
In 2020, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) ruled that citizens and perhaps visitors must register VPN use by October 31, 2022. Unregistered VPNs might be banned entirely after that.
The Pakistani government has briefly blocked users from accessing a number of popular sites in the past, such as YouTube and Quora. It also heavily filters content meaning that usage is generally quite restricted.
The residents of Palau can legally use VPNs and can use the internet without restriction.
Palestine, The State of ✔
Palestine has a history of internet censorship by its government, with certain websites being blocked or shut down. Most recently, there were reports of 11 news sites being censored due to political motivations. However, residents are allowed to use VPNs.
The citizens of Panama can legally use VPNs and enjoy unrestricted access to internet.
Papua New Guinea ✔
In Papua New Guinea, there are reports to suggest that new cybercrime laws mean that internet censorship by the government is on the horizon. Even so, VPN usage is legal.
VPNs are legal to use in Paraguay and its citizens have access to an uncensored internet.
Peruvians also enjoy unrestricted internet access and can legally use VPNs.
The Philippines government has so far refrained from imposing censorship related to internet usage and allows the use of VPNs.
Polish citizens are legally allowed to use VPNs, although there are some questions about restrictions on general internet use. Until recently, there was little censorship or monitoring. However, recent laws mean that the government can closely monitor online activity, causing backlash from citizens and human rights groups.
In Portugal, there is no internet censorship and VPNs are legal.
The use of VPNs in Qatar is legal, although this country’s citizens do experience censorship. While the government doesn’t get involved directly, ISPs are instructed to block certain sites, such as those with obscene content.
Romania has been in the news for their laws against gambling websites, which may be used to apply more widespread censorship. However, the use of VPNs here is legal.
If you’ve been reading about VPNs, you’ve no doubt come across news of the Russian VPN ban which was introduced in November 2017. While this ban, which is intended to “prevent the spread of extremist materials and ideas” blocks VPN websites, it doesn’t actually block VPN traffic. This move comes at a time when online freedom in Russia is rapidly deteriorating and more and more people are seeking VPN services to access restricted content. However, those caught may face fines of up to 700,000 RUB ($10,867) for the provider and 300,000 RUB ($4,657) for the user. Although VPNs are banned, some providers still operate servers inside the country. However, in March 2019, the Russian government demanded access to servers located within the country. This resulted in some providers such as NordVPN shutting down their Russian servers.
While it’s not exactly explicit about its role in internet censorship, there is evidence that the Rwandan government actively blocks news sites and spies on users. More recently it has applied censorship to election candidates by requiring the approval of their online messages. That being said, the use of VPNs here is legal.
Saint Kitts and Nevis ✔
The residents of Saint Kitts and Nevis are allowed to use VPNs and can access the internet without restrictions.
Saint Lucia ✔
The Saint Lucian government does not impose restrictions on internet access and VPN usage is legal here.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines ✔
VPNs are legal in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, although the country doesn’t have a completely clean slate when it comes to internet censorship. The government recently passed a cybercrime bill that could see offenders spending two years in prison for online defamation.
The Samoan government doesn’t impose restrictions on internet usage by its citizens and VPNs are legal to use.
San Marino ✔
VPNs are legal in San Marino where residents can use the internet without being subject to censorship.
Sao Tome and Principe ✔
The Sao Tome and Principe government allows citizens to use the internet freely. They can also legally use VPNs here.
Saudi Arabia ✔
Surprising to many, the use of VPNs in Saudi Arabia is legal. This is in spite of the fact that internet usage in the country is subject to extremely heavy censorship. This involves arrests of people who speak out against the government and the blockage of hundreds of thousands of sites and apps.
Senegal citizens currently don’t experience explicit internet censorship. However, when it comes to the press, some topics are off-limits, with some journalists even receiving jail sentences for defamation charges. Also, the laws in the country make it very possible for the government to apply increased censorship should they wish to do so. That being said, it is legal to use VPNs here.
While VPNs are legal in Serbia, citizens are subject to suppression of freedom of speech while online.
Internet usage in the Seychelles is unrestricted for the most part. However, there are concerns that political motivations have driven the government to restrict access at times. Also, although rarely used, there are strict defamation laws in place. Even so, the use of VPNs here is legal.
Sierra Leone ✔
VPN usage is legal in Sierra Leone and the country’s citizens can use the internet without censorship.
The Singapore government has been known to actively censor internet usage including shutting down political sites and targeting government critics. However, the use of VPNs here is legal.
Sint Maarten ✔
Residents of Sint Maarten can use the internet without restrictions and can legally use VPNs.
The residents of Slovakia have access to the internet without worrying about government restrictions, and the use of VPNs here is legal.
VPNs are also legal in Slovenia and the government here does not censor internet usage.
Solomon Islands ✔
The Solomon Islands government steers clear of imposing restrictions on online users and the use of VPNs here is legal.
While VPNs are allowed in Somalia, this country is well known for its government’s active censorship of the internet. And, since there are no real laws surrounding online censorship, the government can pretty much do as it pleases.
South Africa ✔
South Korea ✔
VPNs are legal in South Korea, although the country is renown for its internet censorship. Reported incidents include the blocking of content that is deemed “subversive” and “harmful to the public order.”
South Sudan ✔
Residents of South Sudan are also subject to online censorship, and the country recently made news for the blockage of several major media outlets. The use of VPNs here is legal.
VPNs are allowed in Spain and internet usage is generally without restrictions. However, there have been recent reports of the government breaching EU laws with their politically-motivated attempts to block certain websites.
The government of Sri Lanka has censored internet activity in the past, and has also blocked certain websites. That being said, VPN usage here is legal.
Following the Easter Sunday suicide attacks in 2019, the government blocked at least one VPN, along with several chat and social media apps.
In 2021, Sri Lankan ISP SLT introduced unlimited data packages that block VPNs along with BitTorrent and Telegram as part of their conditions.
Sudan citizens can also legally use VPNs. However, there are various forms of ongoing online censorship including internet cafe raids and arrests of users.
The Suriname government stays out the way when it comes to internet use and VPNs are legal here.
VPN usage in Swaziland is legal, and residents are not subject to online censorship.
The Swedish government allows citizens to use the internet without restriction and VPNs are legal to use.
Internet usage in Switzerland has been increasingly restrictive in recent years. In 2016, it made news for holding a referendum for a bill that allows the government to monitor internet activities. Even more recently, the government processed a bill that allows censorship in order to protect domestic gambling. That being said, the use of VPNs here is legal.
Perhaps surprisingly, the use of VPNs in Syria is legal. The country does, however, see widespread censorship, including that of the internet. Online activities have long been tracked by the government, which has also imposed blocks on various websites.
Taiwan doesn’t currently restrict internet usage, although it has made moves to allow it to do so. A bill was proposed to block illegal file sharing websites. However, it was never actually passed, so the internet remains uncensored. Additionally, the use of VPNs here is legal.
The citizens of Tajikistan can legally use VPNs. However, the country is well known for its online censorship. In 2012, the government blocked Facebook, along with two news sites, because of content criticizing its president. More recently, talks of an information gateway have led to fears that privacy and freedom of speech will be further impacted.
Tanzania is another country where censorship is prevalent and indeed looks to be getting worse. A bill passed in 2015 that advises on the subject of cybercrime has been accused of criminalizing gossip and causing fear and uncertainty. That being said, VPNs are legal here.
The residents of Thailand can use VPNs, but internet use is considered by Freedom House as not free. There have been some instances of ISPs banning websites such as Wikileaks, and there have also been reported arrests of bloggers in the country.
Citizens of Timor-Leste (also known as East Timor) have use of an uncensored internet and can legally use VPNs.
VPNs are also legal in Togo and the country’s residents don’t experience online censorship by their government.
The Tongan government has passed laws that enable it to censor the internet by blocking websites. Nonetheless, the use VPNs here is legal.
Trinidad and Tobago ✔
VPN usage in Trinidad and Tobago is legal and the country’s residents can use the internet without restriction.
Tunisia has been fairly up and down when it comes to the subject of restricted internet usage. Censorship was rife under the dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. However, later it seemed to improve. More recently though it has been in the news that the government is beginning to again impose restrictions. In spite of this, the use of VPNs here is legal.
Turkey ❌ ✔
The Turkish government heavily censors the internet, blocking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. As such, VPNs are very popular among citizens. While using a VPN in Turkey isn’t actually illegal, the government has cracked down, blocking sites like Tor and some VPN providers.
The Turkmenistan government actively censors the internet and it has been cited as one of the most heavily censored countries in the world. It has just one ISP and it’s government-owned. VPNs have experienced temporary blocks as recently as July 2022.
In 2021, internet users in Turkmenistan report being forced to swear on the Koran that they will never use VPNs after applying for a home internet connection.
The use of VPNs in Tuvalu is legal and the country’s citizens can enjoy unrestricted access to the internet.
In January 2021, following national elections, the Ugandan government blocked about 100 VPNs and several social media and chat apps. Except for Facebook, access was restored the following month.
The Ugandan government has been known to apply censorship when it comes to internet usage. This includes blocking social media sites like Facebook, especially around election time. Until 2018, citizens were free to use VPNs and did so frequently to bypass the social media blocks. However, in July 2018, the government began taxing social media use. With the prospect of having to pay to use apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter, more users turned to VPNs. In response to the ramped up usage, the government ordered ISPs to block VPN traffic. While their use isn’t illegal, the government is trying to persuade users against VPNs. Apart from blocking VPN traffic, government officials have made public pleas arguing that VPN usage will be more costly than paying the social media tax.
VPNs are legal to use in Ukraine. Although, the country does appear to be moving into a period of internet censorship as exemplified by a recent ban of popular Russian websites.
United Arab Emirates ❌ ✔
The UAE is one of the few countries where there are laws explicitly related to VPN usage. However, VPNs may be freely used by companies and institutions and are only illegal if used to commit a crime. A new law introduced in 2016 means that when “internet protocols are manipulated to commit crime or fraud” VPN users could be jailed and fined more than half a million dollars.
United Kingdom ✔
You might expect the UK to be free of online restriction. However, the Investigatory Powers Act means that all online activity might be monitored. UK-based VPN companies may be subject to the same data retention laws as the country’s internet service providers. The UK has also made news in the past as some carriers have blocked certain VPNs. However, the use of VPNs remains legal.
United States of America ✔
VPNs are legal in the USA, although the country does have a history of online controversy. While the government doesn’t actively censor internet usage, there have been many leaked reports regarding online surveillance regarding the NSA, FBI, et al. More recently, the broadband privacy repeal means that monitoring by ISPs is now allowed, and will become increasingly widespread. Of course, in such a large country, online privacy differs depending on the state, with California’s laws being the most protective of its residents.
The citizens of Uruguay enjoy unrestricted access to the internet and can legally use VPNs.
In September 2019, many VPN users complained their services were blocked. The Opera web browser, which includes a built-in proxy, was also banned as of May 2020.
While the use of VPNs is legal in Uzbekistan, there is plenty of restriction with respect to online activity. Sites including WhatsApp, Tiktok and Skype are blocked and there have been past reports of censorship of news sites like IWPR.
Internet adoption in Vanuatu remains fairly low, but the small proportion of citizens who use the internet can do so without restriction. They can also legally use VPNs.
Vatican City ✔
The Holy See government does not restrict internet access and the use of VPNs is legal.
Venezuela is infamous for having blocked a large number of social media and chat sites, such as Facebook and WhatsApp. Even very recently, the government has reportedly threatened a ‘clampdown on social media networks.’
VPNs are still legal in the country, but they do get blocked from time to time. ISPs were found to have blocked several popular VPNs in August 2020.
While VPN usage is legal, the residents of Vietnam are subject to censorship of online activity. This is exemplified by the firm ‘Not free’ status assigned to the country by Freedom House. Vietnam is home of the controversial Decree 72, part of which aims to prevent social media sites being used to share news.
Internet users don’t exactly get an easy time of it in Yemen. There have been attempts in the past by Houthi militia to censor certain content. And more recently they want to impose a blanket ban on internet usage. However, the use of VPNs here is legal.
The citizens of Zambia can also legally use VPNs, but online censorship has been an issue in the country. The government bans sites with ‘immoral’ content, but may have also blocked sites with political motivations.
Just last year, Zimbabwe banned chat platform WhatsApp during protests, and has been known to actively censor the internet. However, the use of VPNs here is legal.
Where are VPNs legal FAQs
How do countries enforce VPN bans?
Countries enforce VPN bans through various methods, some of which we will cover here. They may demand user data from VPN providers, which often discourages these providers from operating in those countries. It has been found that they can also block access to VPN providers’ websites, making it harder for users to download and install VPN software.
Another technique is Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), allowing governments to inspect data packets and detect VPN connections.
Governments often collaborate with Internet Service Providers (ISPs), imposing penalties on those who don’t comply with their VPN bans. They can also block VPN ports or IP addresses known to belong to VPN providers.
What could happen if you use a VPN illegally?
Using a VPN illegally can land you in hot water, no matter where you are. In countries where VPNs are banned or regulated, like the UAE or China, you could face fines or jail time.
Even in places where VPNs are legal, using them for illegal activities, such as hacking or copyright infringement, is still against the law. If you’re caught, you could be held responsible.
Is streaming with a VPN illegal?
Streaming with a VPN isn’t illegal in most places, including the US and many Western countries. It’s a great way to keep your internet connection secure and your privacy intact. Plus, it can help you access blocked content in your region.
But be aware that some streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney Plus aren’t fans of VPNs. Using one might go against their terms of service. While this isn’t illegal, it could get your account suspended if they catch you. Remember, a VPN doesn’t make illicit activities legal. If something’s illegal in your country, it’s still illegal with a VPN.