Can a VPN be tracked by the police or the government?

Can VPN be tracked

Written by: Per-Erik Eriksson

Have you ever wondered whether the police can track you if you are using a VPN? Do you know why VPN jurisdiction is important? Can a VPN disguise your illegal online activity or protect you from legal accountability?

Read on to find out the answers to these questions.

Is using a VPN Legal?

VPNs are legal in most, but not all, countries worldwide. The following countries have put a complete ban on the use of VPNs: Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Iraq, Turkey, and Oman. In China and the United Arab Emirates, VNPs are not altogether banned but are tightly regulated. In Uganda, VNPs are only partially banned.

VPNs are legal in many countries, such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, and others. There are no retention laws that require VPN service providers to log information. However, if your VPN provider logs your information, governments can obtain it with the help of a court order.

Can the Police Track Me If I Use a VPN?

When you do not have a VPN, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) has all the information about you, including your location and traffic content. 

When you have a VPN, your IP address and traffic content are hidden, and all your ISP can tell is that you are using a VPN.

But even though the police cannot track and decode your VPN-encrypted traffic, they can get a court order to collect your information from the VPN provider. That is why it is essential to know what information your VPN provider logs.

Most VPN service providers promise maximum safety and privacy but do not necessarily make good on that promise. Some keep user logs, which are information about the websites you have visited. At the same time, others keep connection logs – times of connection, data usage, actual IP address, and the address assigned by the VPN. Only a tiny amount of them keeps no logs whatsoever.

The authorities have legal means to obtain your private information. Still, if the VPN does not log it, no data will be obtained. So, if you want to make sure that your VPN is reliable, skip all the advertising phrases and go straight to their privacy policy.

VPN Place of Jurisdiction

’Place of jurisdiction’ is the country whose laws would apply if you were legally prosecuted for committing illegal criminal activity online. As far as VPNs are concerned, the place of jurisdiction is usually the country in which the VPN provider’s headquarters are.

Knowing your VPN service’s jurisdiction is essential because certain countries have retention laws and binding alliances with other countries to share the information they consider to be in the national security interest. Here is the list of those alliances:

Five Eyes Alliance: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the USA, and the UK.

Nine Eyes Alliance: Five Eyes + Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and Norway.

Fourteen Eyes Alliance: Nine Eyes countries + Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Sweden.

Can a VPN Protect Me If I Am Conducting Illegal Online Activity?

VNP service providers do not encourage or condone illegal online activity – they simply give you your right to privacy. Nobody should be able to use your information without your knowledge and informed consent. While many organizations profit from that information by targeting you for advertisements, others go as far as to steal other important content. This is where VPNs can be most helpful.

A Word of Advice

If you are using a VPN, the police can neither trace your whereabouts nor find the contents of your traffic. Nevertheless, your VPN service provider may be logging some of your information, which they would have to turn over if requested to do so by the court. 

To ensure maximum privacy and security, check all the VPNs’ jurisdictions and choose a provider located in a country with strong privacy laws and no data-sharing with other countries. Also, make sure that your chosen VPN provider has a strict no-log policy and keeps no data about your online activity.

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