Clearing the Confusion: Is VPN illegal in UAE?

In recent years, the question whether using VPN in UAE is illegal has piqued the curiosity of residents and expatriates alike, throughout the United Arab Emirates. With the rise of digitalization and the increased need for online privacy, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have become a go-to solution for many seeking to protect their internet activities.

However, amidst the UAE’s stringent cyber laws, the legality surrounding the use of VPNs often appears to be cloaked in a veil of uncertainty. This quick guide aims to dispel the myths, clarify the legal landscape, and provide a comprehensive understanding of the circumstances under which the use of a VPN in UAE is legal or not.

Why would using VPN in UAE be illegal?

Before delving into the legality of VPNs in UAE, it is crucial to understand why people think it might be illegal in the first place. The primary reason behind this belief is the UAE’s generally strict approach to cyber laws and regulations that often criminalize any form of online activity deemed inappropriate or offensive. Such laws, according to the government, are aimed at safeguarding national security, public order, and morality.

In line with these objectives, the UAE has implemented robust internet censorship measures that restrict access to certain websites, services, and content deemed offensive or harmful. This censorship is enforced by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), which has the authority to block any websites or online services that do not comply with the UAE’s laws.

Some popular online services that are currently blocked in the UAE include:

  • Skype
  • WhatsApp calling and video chat
  • Facetime
  • Snapchat
  • TeamViewer

The TRA states that it is due to the services’ non-compliance with UAE’s VoIP regulations. To be specific, the UAE’s VoIP regulations require any voice or video calling services to be offered only by licensed telecommunication providers in the country (Etisalat and du).

While these restrictions may seem excessive to some, they are a reality for those living in the UAE. As such, many people turn to VPNs as a means of bypassing these censorship measures and accessing blocked content.

Now this brings us to the core of this guide — the legality of using VPN in UAE. The answer is yes, it is legal to use a VPN in UAE under certain circumstances. As per the TRA, using a VPN in UAE is legal as long as this use does not violate any other laws.

This means that using a VPN for legitimate purposes such as protecting your online privacy is entirely legal in the UAE. However, using a VPN for illegal activities such as spreading hate speech or committing cybercrime is strictly prohibited and can result in severe consequences.

Note that the same consequences  also apply to attempts to unblock restricted content using a VPN. In such cases, if the content is deemed illegal in the UAE, then accessing it through a VPN would also be considered illegal.

So to be clear, while the act of using a VPN is not illegal in and of itself, it is essential to use it responsibly and within the boundaries of UAE’s laws.

What is the punishment for using VPN in UAE for illegal activities?

The punishment for using a VPN in UAE for illegal activities can range from fines to imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense.

For example, under Article 17 of the UAE Cyber Crime Law, severe penalties are imposed on anyone using a VPN to access, promote or publish any content deemed prejudicial to the country’s public morals. This includes gambling sites, pornography and other forms of content deemed by the government to be harmful or offensive.

In this case, punishment can mean imprisonment of at least six months and a fine between AED 250,000 and AED 500,000. The law takes a stricter stance if the pornography involves a minor under eighteen years of age or if the content is designed to attract juveniles, with  punishments of no less than one year of imprisonment and a fine ranging from AED 500,000 to AED 1,000,000.

Is it safe to use VPN in UAE?

Now that we have established the potential consequences of using a VPN in UAE for illegal activities, another common concern is whether it is safe to use a VPN in the first place. The answer is “yes, as long as you keep your activities private and use a reputable and secure VPN service.”

When using a VPN in UAE, it is crucial to choose a provider that offers strong encryption methods and does not keep any logs of your online activity. Additionally, it is advisable to use a VPN server located outside of the UAE to ensure that your encrypted traffic cannot be intercepted by local authorities.

Given how VPNs work, it would be challenging for the TRA to detect your use of a VPN as long as you are using it responsibly and not engaging in illegal activities. However, keep in mind that no technology is completely foolproof, and it is always better to err on the side of caution. That means abiding by the UAE’s laws and refraining from using a VPN for any illegal activities, regardless of how secure it may seem.

How to use VPN in UAE

The good news is that using a VPN in UAE for legitimate purposes is fairly straightforward. Many reputable VPN services offer apps that make it incredibly easy to connect to a server outside of the UAE and browse the internet safely and securely.

For this example, we’ll be referencing the steps on how this can be done with ClearVPN, a highly-rated VPN service that offers strong encryption, a strict no-logging policy, and servers in over 60 countries around the world.

  1. Download and install the ClearVPN app on your computer or mobile device. The VPN app works on Windows, macOS, iOS and Android devices. If you’re on a mobile device, you can get the ClearVPN app via the App Store or Google Play store.
  2. Run the ClearVPN app and just click on the main button. This will automatically connect you to the fastest server available based on your location and internet speed.
  3. If you want to choose a specific country, click/tap on the locations at the bottom of the screen and select a server from the list of countries available. However, keep in mind that this is a premium feature and will require a subscription to use. clearvpn new design main locations iphone

The specific steps will vary depending on the VPN service you choose, but overall, connecting to a VPN in UAE can be as simple as selecting a server and clicking the quick “connect” button.


Can police track VPN in UAE?

The answer depends on the VPN service you are using and its security protocols. If the VPN provider uses strong encryption methods and does not keep any logs of your online activity, it would be difficult (if not impossible) for the TRA or other authorities to track your internet usage.

Technically, WhatsApp calls are not allowed in the UAE, and using a VPN to make them would be considered illegal. However, many people still use VPNs for this purpose, and there is no confirmed case of the UAE authorities taking legal action against individuals for using a VPN to access WhatsApp calls.

Can I be tracked if I use a VPN?

It is possible to be tracked even if you are using a VPN, depending on the security protocols and logging policies of your chosen service. However, unless you are engaged in illegal activities, the chances of being tracked by local authorities are minimal.

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