The UAE government heavily censors the internet, blocking VoIP, social media platforms, adult sites, and political material.
If you’re a citizen or a tourist, one solution is to hide your activity and bypass restrictions through a VPN.
But can the UAE police track VPN connections?
Let’s take a closer look at the country’s anti-VPN measures, the real risks, and potential punishments.
Can the police track VPN usage in UAE?
No, the police in the UAE don’t have the ability to track your real-time internet traffic while encrypted by a VPN. That would require them to crack the encryption, which is virtually impossible.
The only way your VPN can be tracked is if a judge grants a court order to access VPN logs (if they exist) or your ISP records, which could reveal some VPN activity.
The likelihood of this happening is thin.
What is the punishment for using a VPN in the UAE?
The punishment for using a VPN in the UAE is not for the VPN itself, but for accessing forbidden content.
Utilizing a VPN for illegal activity in the UAE can result in imprisonment and fines.
Under the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) and Article 34 of the UAE Cyber Law, internet users who access banned services like VoIP apps:
“Shall be punished by imprisonment of at least one year and a fine not less than Dh 250,000 and not in excess of Dh 1,000,000.”
If you’re a visitor to the UAE, you may face deportation, as per Article 42 of the UAE Cyber Law, which states:
“The court may decide deportation of a foreigner who is condemned in any of the crimes specified in this Decree-Law upon execution of the punishment adjudged.”
It’s important to understand that if you use a VPN for business or privacy reasons and only access legal content, you haven’t done anything illegal.
However, if you do commit a crime, the use of a VPN may fall under “preventing discovery”. This carries a second round of fines and imprisonment, bringing the total to no less than Dh 500,000 and not in excess of Dh 2,000,000.
Can you get caught for using a VPN in UAE?
It’s almost impossible to catch someone using a VPN in real-time. That’s because the encryption most services utilize is too strong to crack.
To even begin prosecution, there would need to be evidence to suggest someone was using a VPN for illegal purposes. For example, public profiles and posts on banned sites, openly making VoIP calls, being caught with pornography, etc.
Only then can authorities get a court order to obtain records from your ISP. This would reveal all the content accessed via your regular internet connection, and show signs of VPN usage.
However, authorities would still be unable to see what you’ve accessed while the VPN was on.
While the police might attempt to secure logs from the VPN provider, good VPNs have no-logs policies, and most aren’t based in the UAE’s jurisdiction.
If you want to risk using a VPN to access restricted content, you should take extra steps to conceal your data. For example, always clear your browser history after each session and never post on banned sites with your real name or e-mail.
So, can the police track your VPN usage in the UAE? The answer is no, not directly. The laws are mostly in place to intimidate. However, you must use common sense if you wish to access content deemed illegal.
Yes, VPNs are legal in Dubai, UAE. However, it’s against the law to access banned sites and services through one.
And using a VPN for illegal activity further increases the penalties for that crime.
In Dubai, using a VPN to access illegal content and services could result in a fine between Dh 500,000 and Dh 2,000,000.
To check the potential fine for using a VPN in the UAE, you must read UAE Decree Law No 34 regarding Cyber Law and Articles 1 and 10, which note the fines.
To keep track of any existing VPN fines in the UAE, visit your local Police website. There, you can enter your name and ID number and check what you owe.
Using a VPN to make a WhatsApp call in the UAE is illegal. This is to comply with VoIP regulations, which only allow traditional telecom companies to provide the service.
Yes, it’s currently illegal to access Roblox in the UAE using a VPN or regular connection.
Roblox has been banned and unbanned in the UAE several times, falling foul of the censors for being inappropriate and non-educational.