VPNs are legal to use in many countries, but you should understand what may be legal and illegal while using a VPN.
While virtual private networks may conjure images of illegal activities and mysterious figures on the dark web, in reality, VPNs are currently legal to use in many countries, including India. Some VPNs encrypt your connection to the internet, disguise your IP address, and prevent others, like the government or internet service providers (ISPs), from tracking your virtual whereabouts.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons to want this degree of privacy, but you should understand what’s considered legal and illegal while using a VPN.* It is the users' responsibility to identify whether their use of a VPN is legal (or not) and to check their country’s laws before using it.
Is VPN legal or illegal in India?
Every country has a different stance on VPNs, and not all see them as favorable. Currently, a handful of governments either regulate or outright ban VPNs, which include countries like Belarus, China, Iraq, North Korea, Oman, Russia, and the U.A.E., to name a few. Still, others impose internet censorship laws, which makes using a VPN risky.
Depending on the country, governments may impose fines on both the citizen and the VPN service provider for using an unsanctioned VPN. Although using VPN is completely legal in India, there are some cases where the government or local police have punished people for using the service.1 It’s better to check for yourself and not to visit legally banned sites while using VPN.
VPNs may be legal in some countries, cybercrime or infringement are not
One thing to remember is that VPN itself is legal but committing criminal acts or merely visiting sites that the government has strictly banned is illegal. VPNs are legalized to prevent terrorist and criminal activities and doing anything remotely close to those offences while using it would be punishable. That may include downloading and selling copyrighted information, hacking into computers or networks without authorization, and cyberstalking. Additionally, using a VPN to circumvent a website’s or app’s technological protection measures (such as geo-locking) could violate the law in some countries, as well as the VPN’s and the website’s Terms of Service.
Use common sense. Before signing up with a VPN provider, please read the Terms of Service and make sure you agree with them. The Terms will probably say you’re responsible for any illegal activity on your part. The VPN provider may also say it will report suspected fraud or illegal activity to law enforcement. Also, read the Terms and Conditions of any service you’re using, such as Netflix, making sure you’re not in breach of its terms while using a VPN.
Is private browsing a right?2
The call for a reasonable right to privacy has been simmering for several years. Until now, there are no official legislated rights regarding private browsing in India. However, one can surf on a private browser unless they violate laws enlisted in the Information Technology Act (ITA) 2000.3
Why VPNs are used
VPNs are widely used by people and organizations looking for an additional layer of internet privacy protection, and a solid VPN achieves that goal. Here are some typical reasons people use a VPN and features that make them useful.4
To use public Wi-Fi privately and safely
Public Wi-Fi providers don’t usually encrypt their internet connections, meaning tech-savvy criminals with the Wi-Fi password can eavesdrop on your cyber browsing. But if you log into public Wi-Fi and then connect to a personal VPN that encrypts data, it will hide most of your private web traffic from prying eyes.
To access content anywhere, as if you were at home
If you just can’t live without watching the latest episode of your favorite series while travelling, a VPN can help you access your content as if you were in your own family room. Even though you’re on the go, some VPNs allow you to select a server in your home country. Check the Terms of Services for your VPN and streaming website and the country's laws where you are traveling to determine if your use presents a risk.
To maintain internet privacy
VPNs can offer some online privacy by stopping advertisers and other third parties from collecting information about you. If it’s a no-log VPN, even the service provider won’t track or log your online activities, which further increases your privacy.5
To bypass restricted networks at work or school
Many businesses and schools impose internet-browsing rules and regulations on their students and employees. You can consider using a VPN if you need to access certain materials for legal and reasonable cause. You must check your company’s or school’s policies and use caution to make sure your use doesn’t violate these policies or the law.
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