With virtual private networks becoming more and more popular, the internet is gradually becoming aware of their utility and the conveniences they offer to the average citizen. They do an excellent job of providing online anonymity as well as granting access to region-based content from around the world.
With all of this in mind, it is still important to note that many people are still unsure as to the legality of using a VPN, especially in countries that have historically faced large governmental efforts to censor the web.
Singapore is one of the best places on earth to own a VPN, and for many reasons. The country has some extremely high download and upload rates, roughly 100 websites have been blocked which can effectively be unblocked by a VPN, and you receive privacy to keep yourself unchecked from the government or your internet service provider.
The big question still remains, though. Despite all the great benefits, is a VPN even legal to use in Singapore?
Just how Legal are VPNs Worldwide?
A lot of people have misconceptions about how VPN usage conflicts with fair use and copyright laws. As a matter of fact there is very little conflict at all. In the vast majority of countries simply owning and using a VPN is totally legal. What really matters are the specific actions any individual chooses to do with a tool like a VPN.
As an example, using a VPN to access basic content or websites such as Facebook or Youtube is perfectly legal. However, downloading copyrighted media for free, whether it be a film or a video game, does cross the boundaries of copyright infringement. But this already happens all the time with users who don’t own a VPN, though VPNs do make it safer to perform this task.
VPNs provide much more than an avenue for minor cyber felonies to occur. They offer the average individual great anonymity not just from their government or their ISP but also potential hackers.
A lot of the same rationale behind VPNs can be found in the growing popularity of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The main idea is to have protection and privacy that is as secure as possible for all of your sensitive data, including your location and identity.
Ultimately, these are the reasons why VPNs are legal in nearly all countries in the world. However, there are some exceptions.
Where VPNs are against the law
One may be surprised by this information but very few countries have actually outright banned the usage of VPNs entirely.
There are 10 countries were VPNs are prohibited in some capacity. Six of them have placed heavy restrictions on their usage and the remaining four have completely banned them entirely.
Iran Oman, Russia, Turkey, China and the United Arab Emirates only allow government approved VPNs and other restrictions.
North Korea, Iraq, Belarus and Turkmenistan are the only countries on the planet that have VPNs made completely illegal altogether.
State approved VPNs are often not as lenient as one might hope or assume. The VPNs of Iran reportedly monitor online activity of those who use them.
Penalties exist in varying degrees including fines up to a few thousand dollars or an indeterminate amount of time in jail.
In the United Arab Emirates, corporations such as banks are allowed access to VPNs due to the highly sensitive nature of their work. Individual citizens of the UAE however are subject to more serious consequences if caught using one.
While the list is small, many of these laws went into place recently, all within this decade. Russia put in place their VPN laws in late 2017 and China banned VPNs altogether just in March of this year.
That means that the news is not all good as it is very likely that more countries will place heavy restrictions or bans on VPNs in the following years.
Are VPNs legal in Singapore?
The short answer is – yes. The Singaporean government has not placed any bans or any restrictions on the purchase and usage of virtual private networks – yet.
For the past couple of years the government of Singapore has been planning on revising their stance on VPNs.
You may already know that Singapore is a country that has been subject to many years of internet censorship with dozens of websites made totally inaccessible to the general public. Since VPNs can bypass these blocks fairly easily, it is fair to assume that the country may implement more serious laws in the coming future.
That’s not to say that the decision to restrict VPNs in Singapore is already set in stone. It could be the case that the Singaporean government will institute their own VPN that keeps the same websites blocked but allows access to all other VPN features such as IP address protection.
It’s hard for anyone to say if or when Singapore will radically change their laws on VPNs. But the fact remains that they are still legal and one should take advantage of this opportunity while it is still here.
Will using a VPN make me Suspicious?
One of the main concerns of people on the fence of purchasing VPNs is that they believe they will instantly be seen as having something to hide. The logic behind this thought is that guilty people who are in the habit of accessing forbidden content are the only ones who would want or need a VPN in the first place.
In the vast majority of countries, there is no legal grounds or probable cause to assume that an owner of a VPN ought to be seen as suspect. These conditions are subject to the specific laws at hand however.
Since Singapore has specifically blocked multiple websites, the government could have some reason to believe that citizens using a VPN are doing so to access these blocked sites. This could constitute intentional circumvention of technological barriers.
Luckily, in Singapore it is still not illegal to use a VPN to access even blocked content let alone websites from overseas. And since all your activities are entirely anonymous, it wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway since no one can know for sure who is accessing what.
The only countries where using a VPN could possibly get you in trouble are in the 10 nations listed previously.
Even in places like Hong Kong or Singapore, using a VPN is completely safe and secure. Wanting your IP address and identity to be protected is nothing to be ashamed about.
How Singaporean Residents can further protect themselves
There’s no doubt that a distinction can be made between using a VPN in places like the United States or the United Kingdom and in places like Singapore.
Since Singapore has been met with many strong online censorship efforts, it only makes sense that the people of Singapore act more diligently to protect themselves from any future worst case scenarios.
In case VPNs do become either illegal or heavily restricted then current preventative measures could save you a lot of hassle in the future. You could say that practicing good informational hygiene could go a long way in keeping you clean.
You should always make sure that you sign up with a VPN service that has an iron clad no logs policy. The main purpose of this is to protect you in the off chance that a VPN company gets shut down and has their information retrieved by an authoritative body, be that the government or some law enforcement agency. A no-logs policy means your activity and your IP address are never recorded, meaning that your actions will remain untraceable.
An extra step would be to make your payments in a way that can’t leave a paper trail. Bank transfers, credit cards and Paypal can all be traced back to you. If you pay using Bitcoin or some other cryptocurrency then your anonymity is guaranteed, at least on the payment side of things.
While it is a shame that several countries take hard stances on VPN legality, it is good to know that the vast majority of the world is fine with their usage.
We can only hope that places like Singapore will not move forward with any potential plans to restrict VPN usability but for now it would be best for us to take advantage of all the protection and privacy we can get while we still have it.