Is VPN Legal and Safe to Use? (a Commentary)
In a recent post, Is VPN Legal and Safe to Use?, the author lays out his arguments.
But he misses the point.
That question is a bit like asking, “is using the Internet legal?” The answer is: it depends what you use it for.
VPN Use is Not Always Legal
If you use your VPN to protect your identity so that you can intentionally download clearly pirated content, illegal materials or to conduct illicit transactions, then your VPN use will be illegal.
Unfortunately, instead of engaging in a thoughtful discussion, the author simply declares “yes” and uses his post as nothing more than an opportunity to flog the most expensive VPN in the industry. Of course, this is no coincidence as it also means high, juicy commissions for him.
Here at Cogipas we don't see things in quite so black and white because that's not how the world works, especially the online world.
Like Many Things in Life, It Depends
To us, the question, is VPN legal and safe to use, is more a question of risk management.
Plus, whether your actions are legal and safe or not might depend on things such as:
- WHERE you live,
- WHAT you download and
- even HOW you download.
Where You Live
For example, if you live in a relatively lax jurisdiction when it comes to copyright, your exposure to risk when downloading will be much lower than if you live in the USA or UK. For example, Britain has even started handing out prison sentences for illegal downloading!
In some places, downloading copyright materials may be prohibited “on the books” but consequences may not be pursued with any vigor by the authorities. In such places, only prolific downloaders who flaunt their activities may need to worry.
What you Download
If you are going out of your way to download pirated materials, then your risk is much higher. Duh.
On the other hand, maybe you want to use a VPN simply to protect against online tracking and profiling or monitoring, and to have a degree of protection in case you inadvertently download something dodgy.
How you Download
How you download the content may also be a factor. Downloading via torrents easily exposes your IP address whereas data lockers and Usenet do not. If you trust (a big IF) the data locker or Usenet provider, technically you don't even need a VPN. But for the small sum of $3.03/month we highly recommend you do.
But don't sign up willy-nilly to just any VPN. Sign up for a reliable VPN with a proven track record of not keeping any logs of its users' activities.
The VPN provider recommended in the post we are commenting on here is not only the most expensive but, as far as our research shows, its no-logging claim is still legally untested.
Contrast this with the very affordable VPN Private Internet Access (“PIA”) which has demonstrated its commitment to user privacy right down to the ultimate test of publicly disclosed court documents proving its non-logging policy.
If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, PIA VPN has proven its mettle beyond doubt.
How You Pay can be Important Too
Even how you pay for your VPN service might factor in to your risk model. If you subscribe to a VPN service with your credit card or banking details, the VPN provider will have those on file and they could potentially be disclosed (or hacked) by a VPN provider that keeps logs of its users' activities.
So, serious downloaders in very risky situations should also consider paying for their VPN service with anonymous payment methods such as Bitcoin or better yet cash-bought store gift cards as these cannot be traced back to you.
We fully recognize that this is an unnecessary step for most people but, going back to our risk management approach, if you are in a high-risk situation this is something you should consider.
Conclusion to our Commentary of ‘Is VPN Legal & Safe?'
So before swallowing whole any black and white analysis of whether using a VPN is legal and safe, stop and think. Things are more complicated than a binary yes or no.
We think everyone should be using a VPN given the risks and dangers, current and future, regarding online tracking, monitoring and profiling. A VPN helps obfuscate your online activities and protect your privacy.
And for downloaders, a VPN is a must. If nothing else, a VPN will protect you in case you inadvertently or accidentally download something you shouldn't have.
This all points to using a trusted, non-logging premium VPN provider, but doing so without throwing money out the window. The pioneering VPN provider Private Internet Access has your back and is great value at $3.03/month. Why pay the whopping $13/month some VPNs charge?