Question: I am contacting you due to the conflicting reports I have come across regarding the legality of free calling apps and the permissibility of using VPN for such apps in the UAE. Can you provide clarification on these matters?
Response: I understand that you have concerns regarding conflicting information about free calling apps in the UAE and the use of VPN for such apps. Based on applicable regulations, including the UAE Cyber Law and TDRA Internet Access Regulations of 2017, I can provide you with more information.
According to the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) guidelines, the use of Virtual Private Network (VPN) in the UAE is not considered illegal if it is used within the parameters set forth by the TDRA. In August 2016, the TDRA stated that companies, institutions, and banks in the UAE may use VPN for internal purposes. However, the use of VPN for illegal activities or to commit a crime is considered a serious offense under Article 10 of the UAE Cyber Law. This article states that anyone who uses a third party's address or other means to fraudulently access a computer network protocol address for the purpose of committing a crime or preventing its discovery may face imprisonment and a fine ranging from AED 500,000 to AED 2,000,000.
Furthermore, Clause 1.9 of the TDRA Internet Access Regulations defines "Prohibited Content Categories," which are listed in Annex 1 of the regulations. This annex includes various types of internet content that are prohibited in the UAE.
You are permitted to use VPN for Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) calls on free tele/video apps in the UAE. However, accessing TDRA prohibited apps using VPN to make VOIP calls is not allowed in accordance with Clause 1 and Clause 14 of Annex 1 of the TDRA Internet Access Regulations.
“Clause 1 – By passing and accessing blocked content:
This category includes internet content that allows or helps users to have access to prohibited content including the proxy servers and Virtual Private Networks services (VPNs) that mainly allow access to the prohibited content on the internet.”
Illegal Communication Services:
This category includes internet content that promotes or allows access to illegal communication services according to a regulation or decision by the competent authority.”
In accordance with the TDRA regulations outlined earlier, using VPN to access prohibited apps for VOIP calls in the UAE may be considered illegal and may lead to penalties as per the UAE Cyber Law. It is important to note that even using VPN and VOIP for illegal activities on legally allowed websites and apps in the UAE is considered a crime.
As an individual, it is essential to use VPN and VOIP responsibly on legally allowed websites and apps in the UAE. To ensure that the free calling apps you plan to use for VOIP calls are legally allowed, it is advisable to verify this information. In case of any further clarifications, consulting a legal practitioner in the UAE or reaching out to the TDRA may be beneficial.
News Source: Khaleej Times