If you’re considering using a UAE VPN (specifically: using a VPN service whilst in the United Arab Emirates), you should think very carefully in the wake of some recent news.
According to multiple reports, including this one from The Register, the use of a VPN service in the United Arab Emirates is now legally outlawed. Anyone caught using a UAE VPN risks a fine of up to 2 Million UAE Dirham (over US$500,000) and / or prison time.
The New UAE VPN Law
The new law reads as follows:
Whoever uses a fraudulent computer network protocol address (IP address) by using a false address or a third-party address by any other means for the purpose of committing a crime or preventing its discovery, shall be punished by temporary imprisonment and a fine of no less than Dhs 500,000 and not exceeding Dhs 2,000,000, or either of these two penalties.
Clearly, this is open to some interpretation. However, the UAE isn’t really a place you want to find yourself arguing technicalities with the authorities. Not when people have been fined $68,000 for swearing on WhatsApp.
With the UAE population consisting primarily of expats, there are many reasons why the use of a UAE VPN is popular. The local Internet is heavily censored. This means no porn; no gambling; and restricted use of VoIP services. It’s therefore little wonder why so many people make use of a VPN to get around these blocks.
Many do so for reasons no more nefarious than keeping in touch with home cheaply or watching some familiar TV. However, these people are now at risk of serious criminal sanctions. Given that the censored parts of the Internet are off-limits in Dubai, it’s potentially difficult to argue that you’re not “committing a crime” as per the wording of the law above.
The Impact of the New Law
The announcement of the law has caused some vocal online reaction. One commenter on The Register even predicts that it could cause companies to leave Dubai. Many global firms use VPN as a legitimate way to connect their systems between countries. With this in mind, who will want to risk ending up behind bars for doing so?
Commenters clearly take the new sanctions very seriously. People do end up in jail in the UAE for actions that aren’t considered crimes in many other places in the world. As such, using a VPN there is now a risky business.
We have a list VPNs for the UAE here. We have added a warning to it since this news was announced. Essentially, if you want to use a UAE VPN you must do so at your own risk. If your only reason to do so is to catch up on Netflix, it’s a rather significant risk to take.
IMAGE CREDITS: Wikipedia