Are VPNs legal in the UK?

Are VPNs legal in the UK?
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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.

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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 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.

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.