Do VPNs Leave Traces?
UAE residents and visitors have been facing a bulwark of internet restriction since probably the first day the internet was introduced to that country. And so has been Virtual Private Networks. But this is not exclusive to the UAE. Everywhere on the planet where there is an internet connection, there’s been a constant battle being fought on the frontlines of online freedom, between two sides, namely, the users who would be, well, people like us, and the regulators, who are in the service of the authorities and governments. Though that’s not all they do, this latter side is mostly in the business of restriction, and undoing anti-restriction efforts made by the other side. Throughout the years, this side has gained more and more power -mostly in the name of security and fighting criminal activities- and imposes more and more restrictions, and sometimes, in the case of the United Arab Emirates, regulations came to pass that outlawed the use of anti-filtration methods, with penalties and fines of different shades coming along with it. So to be quite clear, in the UAE, to use tools that liberate and open up the internet is a bit risky, even though the authorities are ostensibly only after those who employ these tools to hide criminal activity. Here we’ve taken the case of VPN, as a most cost-effective and efficient tool to bypass restrictions -not to mention the most popular- comes in the picture, and gives us a little hope, since we are using it mostly just trying to unblock WhatsApp and call a family member or a dear friend, get access to the services like Netflix and do some streaming in UAE, or play a game on a platform like Roblox in UAE. We aren’t after doing anything harmful to others, so we may say to ourselves that even if the police can track me, I haven’t done anything wrong to worry about persecution. But that’s not the end of our worries. There’s also real questions about privacy. Is my WhatsApp call being tracked, or even listened to? Is my search history and other personal data being seen and stored somewhere? If we can keep the lid on some paranoiac jumps we’re susceptible to in these matters (Are they watching me? Do they know what I’m thinking of right now?), they can be easily resolved and as we’ll show you, with choosing the right VPN there should be no problem on the issue of privacy, or even the concern of being tracked.
So let’s first answer the question we asked in the title of this article.
Can Your VPN Use Be Tracked in UAE?
The short answer would be no, but a better answer would be it’s going to prove very difficult for them. For example, to track your online activity, live, is impossible because a VPN encrypts all of your data and only the receiving end and your end have the key. But to see whether you used a VPN or not, they could go to your ISP (internet service provider) and ask for information about your IP being changed; and even for this, they’ll need a court order, so it really wouldn’t be worth their time and money to do all that just because you talked to your mom via FaceTime, or watched the new episode of The Last of Us on HBO max.
This all changes if some users of VPN are trying to do something harmful to others, that is, committing a crime through the internet. As to the measures the authorities would go to and the methods they have at their disposal, we don’t have any idea, but it’s a story ending in handcuffs most likely.
Now that we’re kind of in the law and order territory, let’s talk a bit on the legal matters behind the VPN use.
The Legal Side of Everything VPN in the UAE
First, a disclaimer: We are not legal experts, and as you well know, there’s a whole area of expertise, – with a much better pay, needless to say- done by people called lawyers or legal counselors, which we are not a member of. What we say here and elsewhere in our other blogs are merely our personal takes and interpretations of the legal situation and implications it may have. So if you want actual legal counsel, you have to employ a lawyer who specializes in matters of cyber-crimes and the like in the UAE.
So many questions, and we’ve answered each someplace else in one of our blogs. Here we only touch upon the issue, so take a look at these articles if you want to learn more:
As we mentioned, the use of VPN comes with considerable risks only if it is used for criminal purposes and harmful activities, and since common sense doesn’t constitute using WhatsApp to call a friend or watching a favorite show a criminal act by itself, neither should the UAE government, and as we also mentioned, even if they did, it is too much trouble to go through to persecute so many people doing innocent things. Besides that, the UAE hasn’t outlawed the use of VPNs completely.
Something to be more concerned about is how to choose the right VPN for your needs in UAE, since there’s so many on the market and a VPN that works in UAE is hard to find. There’s a whole lot of brands claiming to be the best VPN for VoIP in the UAE (that is, Voice over IP, a technology that WhatsApp and FaceTime and many more use for making calls), best VPN for iPhone in UAE etc. All in all you ultimately need to get around your WhatsApp blocked calls, see how to unblock FaceTime in UAE, and for that you have to see that among all of these brands, which VPN is the best VPN in UAE. So many people are using VPNs to get access to the internet, and make calls. Let’s conclude with saying that I personally wouldn’t be that worried about the legal side of using a VPN, and care more about where I can find a good, reliable one.
Here’s the answer to this quetion.
MenaVPN, A VPN made for a UAE Resident