If you live in or travel to the United Kingdom, you might be aware of the rules in place for monitoring Internet use. Since the passing of the Investigatory Powers Act in 2016, the British police and intelligence agencies have unprecedented access to your information and online activities.
Anyone spending time in the UK has a very good reason to protect themselves.
The best way to do so is, without a doubt, with a VPN. But because VPNs are so very effective at evading online surveillance, people often wonder about the legality of their use. It’s a common misconception that because they hide your identity online, their use is illegal.
Is It Legal to Use VPNs in the UK?
Short and to the point, yes, yes it is legal to use a VPN in the United Kingdom. There is not a single UK law which would forbid or prevent you from doing so. You’re well within your rights.
One little thing to be careful of, however, is which VPN provider you choose. As you can see by browsing around this site a bit, there are a lot of them. And if you happen to pick one that operates out of the UK, you should know that they still fall under the auspices of the Investigatory Powers Act.
Any VPN service based in the UK is obligated by law to provide information to the police and intelligence agencies when asked to do so, just like ISPs are.
To properly protect your online privacy and anonymity, simply choose a VPN outside the UK. If searching around for one is not something you can currently invest time into, take a look at this list of recommended UK services instead. All have lots of UK servers, and all are out of the reach of British authorities.
And to clarify, you can still get a British IP address by connecting to a VPN server in the UK. That is fine. The important part is making sure whatever VPN provider you use is based out of another country.
Why Use a VPN in the UK
Anytime you use a British ISP (be it at home, in a hotel, or on your mobile), they have a legal obligation to log every website you visit and every online service you use. They keep that information for a year.
During that period, some 48 UK authorities may request, without a warrant mind you, access to those ISP logs.
In other words, they can investigate what you have been up to on the internet whenever they please.
Police and intelligence agencies have other questionable powers too. They have the legal authority to hack into computers, smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices. Once again, the can do so as they deem fit. ISPs are obligated to help them with those efforts, as well as capture and decrypt data.
A VPN is the safest and easiest way to protect yourself in the UK (and indeed, anywhere else in the world). It encrypts all traffic leaving and coming to your device. It also makes it appear as though the origin of that traffic is the VPN server and not you.
The combination of these two features will leave your UK ISP, and by extension the government and intelligence agencies, in the dark.