Understanding VPN Laws in UK
In this article, we want to take a close look at the issue of the use of VPN in the UK and whether you will break any laws by doing this. Before we go into the subject proper, let us first look at what a VPN is for those who may not already know.
What is a VPN?
A VPN or Virtual Personal Network is a system that allows you access the internet anonymously. Usually, when you access the internet, your computer sends data directly to the web. When you go through a VPN, it encrypts the data from your computer and then routed to the VPN's server from where it then goes to the web. You can learn more here.
In the first scenario, your data and location are visible to both your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and the website you are visiting. In the second scenario, the data is encrypted before it even gets to your ISP, so it protects all of your data and it shields your location and the computer from both your ISP and the websites you visit.
That is what it means when you say browsing anonymously.
Why Do You Need it in the UK?
Do you really need such a “cloak and dagger” kind of operation here in the UK? Well, let's explain why people who use VPNs in the UK do so. You can then decide for yourself if you want to use one or not.
Like we saw in our explanation of what a VPN is, when you access the internet without a VPN, your information is out there for your ISP and any other interested parties to view. In fact, according to The Investigatory Powers Bill they passed which became a law in the UK in 2016, it requires your ISP to keep a log of your internet activities for up to one year. You can go to this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Investigatory_Powers_Act_2016 to know more about The Investigatory Powers Act.
Within this time, it mandates them to hand over these information's to the government whenever the government demands. Note that they require no warrant or court order for this request. Once the government makes the demand, they simply hand over the information.
When we say “the government” we don't necessarily mean the highest authority. We are referring to over 40 government agencies including the Department for Work and Pensions, Food Standards Agency and many more.
That's not all! Security and intelligence agencies even have more powers. They have the authority to hack into any of your devices—computers, smartphones and others. They don't just have the power to do this. They can compel the ISPs to assist them in this endeavor by providing them with data captured from you and even decrypting it if need be.
So, it's now up to you to decide if you want to use a VPN or not. If you don't mind your information being available to any and everyone to access, then you need not use a VPN. If, however you think you deserve some privacy, then you should consider using a VPN.
Are there Legal Restrictions to Using VPNs in the UK?
As of today, there are no laws banning the use of VPNs in the UK. While the law does not prevent the use of a VPN, the Investigatory Powers Bill is enforceable on VPNs located in the UK. It can compel them to divulge any information they may have gathered on any of their users.
What this means is that the user is free to use a VPN, but the government can grab the VPN service and make them release them the information they have collected. This then brings us to the issue of how to overcome this. The answer to this is simple – choose a VPN that can either not be compelled to release your information or one that has no information to release.
Now we have asked and answered the question – are VPNs legal, we can go into the details of how to choose the right service.
Choosing a VPN
From all we have discussed up till this point, the crux of the matter lies with the VPN you use. While some of these networks will gather a lot of information on the user, some others will not gather as much information. What this means is that when the government comes to ask for information, they will give them what they have.
So how much information does the VPN have? If they've collected a lot of information, then they have a lot but if they have not, then they don't have a lot.
A second consideration is location. The UK can only compel a VPN if it is operating in the UK. They can operate outside of the UK but have servers in the UK. This will show your IP is from the UK but the government cannot compel them to release any data on their users.
Questions You Should Ask before Choosing a VPN
So, how do you go about choosing the right VPN service? Asking the following questions may help you make the right choice.
Like we noted above, a service located outside the UK cannot be compelled to release information on their users even if they have servers in the UK. You may therefore be better off with a VPN service located outside the UK.
How Much Information Collected?
How much information does the VPN service collect from you? The less the information they make you reveal, the better for you. Don't just take their word for it, be sure to look at the fine prints.
How Secure is the Network?
You need to check for the level of security your connection enjoys. Remember that your data should be encrypted so the level of encryption is very important. You need a high level of encryption.
Services that Can be Used with the Network
You need to be sure that the network you go for will allow you to visit the sites you want to visit of use the services you want. For example, some folks will want to share files through torrent sites, watch movies on Netflix and other media sites or even carry out secure transactions on PayPal and the likes. Be sure you can do all that with the company you choose.
For more information on how to choose a VPN network and other information, read this article.