The UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has clarified that the new law concerning the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) will not target all users.
“We are committed to streamline the activities of companies that use virtual networks,” it said.
“The TRA assures businesses and the public that it is fully committed to the safety and the smooth flow of economic activities for UAE-based companies and institutions, highlighting that there are no regulations which prevent the use of VPN technology by companies, institutions and banks to access their internal networks through internet. However, business users can be held accountable, like the use of any other technology, if it has been misused,” the statement said.
The clarification comes after the UAE amended a law last month focussed on combating cybercrime.
Federal law No. 12/2016 amends the existing federal law No. 5/2012 on combating information technology crimes.
Article 1 of the new law replaces the text of Article 9 of the old ruling as follows:
“Whoever uses a fraudulent computer network protocol address (IP address) by using a false address or a third-party address by any other means for the purpose of committing a crime or preventing its discovery, shall be punished by temporary imprisonment and a fine of no less than Dhs 500,000 and not exceeding Dhs 2,000,000, or either of these two penalties.”
However the TRA said that the laws target only those who “misuse virtual networks services and will not affect any legitimate activity consistent with UAE laws.”
It warned that the misuse of any licensed service in the UAE will lead to legal liabilities for users.
Director general of TRA Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori said: “The UAE’s leadership in ICT is contrary to what has been reported about VPN.
“The UAE is one of the most open countries in terms of economic activity, supported by ICT,” he added.
VPNs allow people to access a private network worldwide by hiding their actual location. In the UAE, several people use VPNs to access international versions of sites such as online streaming platform Netflix.
According to estimates by the International Data Corporation, TV piracy – through the use of illegal set-top boxes, unauthorised VPN subscriptions, and torrent downloads – costs over $750m in losses to the content and consumer product creation industries in the Middle East and Africa every year.