Whether you’re a UK native, an immigrant, or on vacation, there are some things you need to know before you start downloading the latest content from your favorite torrent site.
This guide will answer the question “is it safe to torrent in the UK?” in detail, and also give you some tips to reduce or eliminate the risks. Keep reading to find out more.
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Is it Safe to Torrent in the UK? Risks of Torrenting in the UK
When comparing country to country, the United Kingdom is by far one of the riskiest places to torrent. For over a decade, the government, law enforcement, and law firms have coordinated to do everything they can to stop torrenting – and to prosecute those who do torrent.
Let’s look at the risks in more detail.
Bans on torrent sites
Since 2013, the UK government has been passing laws forcing ISPs to completely block users from accessing torrent sites and other piracy-related domains. By 2015, the list of blocked sites was already over 100, including a who’s who of popular torrent sites, like The Pirate Bay, 1337x, and the now-defunct Kickass Torrents.
They’ve only continued to expand the list to include streaming sites and even Sci-Hub, which is site for downloading scientific studies and research papers without paying.
What does this mean for torrenters? Well, it makes torrents harder to access, obviously, but it also shows the UK’s commitment to stopping torrenting in general. That includes throttling P2P speeds.
Data retention laws for ISPs and mass surveillance
In 2016, the UK passed the Investigatory Powers Act, also known as the “Snoopers’ Charter”. The law requires internet service providers, both home and mobile, to store your browsing history for 12 months.
Law enforcement and other government agencies are then given access to that data.
Not only is this a huge blow to privacy, it means both your current and previous torrenting activity is stored in a database, just waiting to be used against you.
As a member of the Five Eyes, the UK is no stranger to surveillance – and it’s only getting worse. Human rights organization Liberty has called the UK government “the most intrusive mass surveillance regime of any democratic country”.
Fines and lawsuits for torrenting
If you are caught torrenting, which is a major possibility if you do so unprotected, you could face a fine or lawsuit. Hundreds of thousands of file-sharers have been targeted in the past, and it’s still happening today.
We’ve also seen raids and arrests made against people running streaming services. In other words, the penalties for torrenting in the UK could include fines for hundreds or thousands of pounds – or worse.
How to Stay Safe When Torrenting in the UK
In our opinion, a virtual private network (or VPN) is a must for torrenting, no matter where you live. But it’s especially important if you’re torrenting in the UK.
For starters, it hides your real IP address from the torrent “swarm”, so your identity can’t be connected to your downloads. Second, it encrypts your traffic, so that your ISP can’t monitor or log your traffic.
And third, it’ll make it much easier to actually access torrent sites. Simply use a server in another country and suddenly those blocked sites are accessible again.
Again, we always recommend using a VPN when torrenting. But it’s an even bigger no-brainer if you’re in the UK.
What to Look for in a VPN for UK Torrenting
So, what should you look for in a VPN to use in the UK?
1. It should be based outside of the UK, so it’s not subject to local data retention laws. Even better if it’s outside of the Five Eyes – or any other country that conducts mass surveillance.
2. It should have a kill switch, which will stop your downloads (and internet) if your VPN connection drops.
3. It should also have plenty of nearby servers, both in the UK and in other European countries. This will allow you to maximize your download/upload speeds, as well as access local websites while connected.
Now, you can do your own research on VPNs, but it can be a little hard to navigate for newbies. So, we’ve decided to highlight our favorite VPN for torrenting in the UK, one that hits all of the points we mentioned above.
Best Torrenting VPN for the UK
Our top pick is PIA VPN, and here are some of the main reasons why:
- Prices start at just £1.69 per month
- Based outside of the UK and has proven their no-logs policy in court
- Servers in London, Manchester, and Southampton, as well as other European countries, like Ireland, France, Spain, and Germany
- Built-in kill switch
- No restrictions on torrenting and P2P
Read our our full PIA review for even more info.
So, let’s summarize. The bad news: it’s very risky to torrent unprotected in the UK. But the good news: there’s an easy and cheap way to hide your torrenting activity from your ISP and other snoops.
Now, a VPN isn’t foolproof and it won’t make you completely “anonymous” online. But it will hide your IP address and encrypt your torrenting traffic, so that people can’t see what you’re downloading – or even that you’re using P2P.