Best UK VPN

United Kingdom: Internet Freedom, Censorship and VPNs 

Looking for the Best VPN for the United Kingdom? To see the best VPN services for British internet users simply Click Here or scroll down the page. 












The United Kingdom has had a pretty sub-par reputation when it comes to protecting the online freedom rights of individual citizens. 

Surveillance has been a hot topic of debate, controversy and shocking development in recent years for the UK. Receiving one of the worst grades within Europe for respecting individual privacy, the governing bodies in the UK that make the big decisions on how the internet will grow and develop within their country have, it would seem, dropped the ball more than once. 

Setting surveillance and privacy aside, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the UK have also installed default filtering on their routers, which has a huge amount of websites auto-blocked to users that the UK government feel are in breach of copyright or general information laws. As a result of this, the general "health" of the UK internet freedom could be said to be 'poor' at best. 

With so much going on regarding UK internet freedom news, we decided to create this page to give you an overview of the general state of the UK's online freedom. Here's a quick snapshot of what you can find on this page:

What you will learn on this page

  • Stats and Facts about internet freedom and privacy in the UK
  • What content is blocked in the UK 
  • How to unblock geo restricted content in the UK 
  • How To Get The US Version of Netflix in the UK
  • The Best VPN Services for the UK


Snapshot of The Internet In the UK

Population

64.5m+

% Internet Access

57m+

Avg. Download Speeds

10.7 Mbit/s

Freedom of Press

6/10

Social Media Access

100%

Freedom Status

FREE
[check here]

Torrenting

ILLEGAL

Netflix Available?

YES
[some content restricted
check here for list]


Content Blocked In the UK

Content blocking in the United Kingdom has gotten steadily worse in recent years, with more and more sites being blocked not just on an individual case-by-case appealed basis, but also on mass with many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) having many websites blocked by default when installing their services for new customers. 

Some of the first websites to be blocked nationally in the UK were not too surprising or controversial, internationally-speaking. Such sites as The Pirate Bay and fellow P2P file sharing platforms were swiftly blocked by most ISPs a few years ago. The UK takes copyright infringement quite seriously in all forms, online file-sharing included. We say "quite" because although it's an active war that governing bodies are always fighting, it's no secret that many users that find simple ways to bypass block P2P file sharing websites have practically never been acknowledged let alone reprimanded for such activity by any legal body.

In addition to the main large global P2P file sharing sites, and a myriad of universally accepted and supported sites being blocked (child pornography hosting/sharing, terrorism communication platforms, etc.) there has been a recent heavy clamp down on non-commercial media streaming websites that illegally host copyrighted content. However most of these sites simply let the block happen and launch another identical site on another domain and hosting. 

It is also worth noting that since the UK installed default filtering on ISPs, a phenomenon called 'overblocking' has been seen to occur quite regularly in the country, with many completely legal and harmless websites being blocked unnecessarily by these default IPS filters. 

Top Websites To Unblock in the UK

  • Netflix (full US version)
  • Spotify (full US version)
  • Hulu (full US version)
  • Pandora
  • YouTube (geo-restricted content)


How To Unblock Content In the UK

Now that we've covered all the content and websites that are blocked in the UK... is there a way to get around these blocks and access the content? 

Yes, there is. Not only is there a way around these blocks - there is a completely legal, secure and private way to do this for the same price it would cost you for two cups of coffee a month. How? By using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). 

VPNs are by far the best method to get around blocked content in the UK without breaking any laws. You simply find a VPN service provider that you like the look of (there are literally hundreds to choose from nowadays) and get it setup on any and all of your devices that you want to be able to access blocked content from. 

Setting up a VPN takes just a few minutes, and in addition to providing you with a sophisticated and secure way to access all blocked content in the UK, a VPN also gives you an incredibly effective layer of privacy and identity protection during all your online activity. The moment you switch on your VPN, you can access any content you like on a secure network, all the while having the piece of mind that your online activity is anonymous and cannot be tracked back to you personally. 

If you use your smartphone a lot to watch YouTube videos and get annoyed at the many "sorry this content is not available in your country" messages when loading a video you want to see, for example, then setup a VPN on your phone and that content is magically now available. VPNs now run across practically any and all devices that you would want to access blocked content in the UK from - laptop, desktop, smartTV, gaming console, smartphone - all covered. Windows phone and Apple computer? Not a problem, since 99% of VPNs today support all operating systems. 

You may think that a VPN sounds too good to be true, or that it may not actually unblock the content that you've be unable to access for weeks or even months. This is why any self-respecting VPN service provider charges a certain amount every month from its users, to support and help develop these sophisticated pieces of light background software so that you really do get a level of secure access and privacy that you cannot get in any other way.


How To Watch US Netflix in the UK

Any self-respecting UK residing internet user either has a personal Netflix account, or has a friend that has one whom they scrounge off of. Netflix is the world's largest online media streaming provider, offering a service of the absolute best TV and film media past and present, on demand, seamlessly to your device. 

With Netflix being a US-based service, and with a huge majority of the content of TV and film being created and produced in the US, it's no surprise that some owners of highly popular TV shows and films have strict distribution and copyright laws in place when in comes to where an online user can access their show or film from. 

This means that many shows and films on Netflix are blocked when you try to watch them in the UK. The reason Netflix does this is because as we just mentioned, that they have agreements with the content owners regarding distribution rights that mean they have to restrict content from users in certain locations outside of the agreements made. 

How does Netflix do this? They use a process called 'geoblocking', where they check the IP address of a user when that user tries to access a piece of content. Once they determine the users IP address, this tells them where in the world that user is accessing that content from. Netflix then checks the distribution rights of that content they agreed upon with the owner, and then check to see if the user's location is one of the agreed locations. If it is; the user gets access to the content. If it is not; the user gets the annoying, "sorry, this content is not available in your country" message, and the content is inaccessible. 

So this begs the question, how do you watch US Netflix (i.e. the fully accessible Netflix library) while you're in the UK? 

Well, as we just explained, the way that Netflix determines where a user is accessing content from in the world, is by checking the user's IP address, right? So if there was a way to change your IP address from a UK one to a US one, will that work? 

Yes. That's exactly what will work. It's also exactly how Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) work. By using a VPN, you can choose with a simple click where you want your IP address to appear to the rest of the online world. So to use a VPN to access the full US Netflix, it is as simple as downloading a VPN of your choice, setting it up (which takes just a few minutes) and then selecting a US-based IP address from the options you'll have in front of you, and boom! You're now able to fully access any Netflix content you want from the comfort of your UK location. 

VPNs are a legal, secure and safe way for you to not only access the full US Netflix in the UK, but they also allow you to access any blocked content online, from any device (smartphone, laptop, desktop, smartTV, playstation, xbox, etc.) on any operating system (Windows, Android, OS X, etc.), which is pretty amazing. 

Finally (and we believe most importantly) by using a VPN, you give yourself anonymity online, meaning that your online activity is private and untraceable back to your personal identity or location. With today's online surveillance and censoring only growing more and more extreme and invasive, using a VPN is your best plan of defence.

We've actually reviewed firsthand the very best VPN service providers currently out there and have listed the top five VPNs to use for the UK. Each of these VPNs offer a 30-day free trial, so there's really no reason not to try one out and see for yourself how powerful, secure and helpful they are. 

*Note - we've listed these in descending order, so the most recommended VPNs for UK start at the top of the list.


Best VPNs For the UK

RANK

PRICE

VPN PROVIDER

REVIEW

VISIT SITE

1

$8.32 / month

ExpressVPN logo

2

$10 / month

3

$6.55 / month

4

$6.49 / month

5

$10 / month


Censorship

The Internet is constantly changing and evolving, but the Internet today in the United Kingdom is not as free and open as was only 10 years ago. When the Internet first began making its way into households as a staple consumer service, it was largely unmonitored, uncensored, and uninhibited. Today however, things have changed drastically due to the government’s requirement for ISPs to implement default web filters that block a lot more than pornography. Traffic filtering and the practice of blocking select websites have become mainstream due to state sanctions. Unfortunately, the government has used propaganda regarding viruses and Trojan horses as a justification for implementing censorship regulations.

But just how stringent are the censorship practices in the UK compared to the rest of Europe? Well, the UK is not actually an extreme outlier. As a whole Europe is still an area of the world that enjoys easy access to Internet connections with only moderate censorship. Even with their new censorship initiatives, the UK isn’t taking as drastic measures as other countries outside of Europe who completely block access to search engines and social media such as YouTube and Facebook. However, if you live in or visit the UK, we all feel your pain. Whether the content is justified or not, we all know that sinking feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you discover your content is inaccessible from your current geographic location – such as the latest Game of Thrones episode. It’s sadder than a Greek tragedy.

In the last few years, there have been some stark changes to the UK’s Internet policies. Most notably, the riots in August of 2011 acted as a catalyst that caused the Pandora’s Box of Internet regulations to be opened. On the 25th of August, 2011, government officials met with the leaders of top social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter to find ways to prevent social media from being used as a tool to facilitate criminal activity. A few years later in 2014, the four largest ISPs were required to implement censorship tools to ensure that as much as 95% of households’ Internet was censored.

The UK has implemented a shocking new censorship program, but ranks well compared to the rest of European Internet censorship. http://goo.gl/uODiUX

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Surveillance

Governmental surveillance and bulk data collection still exist in the UK, but numerous surveillance acts have been shot down within the last 10 years. Sure, the government does still practice surveillance techniques, but their ability to do so has been somewhat disarmed. Due to the Protection of Freedoms Act of 2012, massive collections of surveillance information were destroyed such as Contact Point and the Citizen Information Act. In addition, further laws and regulations that would have allowed the government to track web browsing history (e.g. the Draft Communications Data Bill) were stopped dead in their tracks and rejected.

Though this is extremely good news, it doesn’t give an accurate view of the big picture when the UK is compared to other European countries. Britain isn’t nicknamed a “surveillance society” for no good reason. In fact, their ranking is horrendously dismal within Europe – so much that they were rated the worst country for protecting individuals’ rights and liberties regarding surveillance and privacy. The UK has one of the largest network of surveillance cameras in the world, and the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill gives governmental entities the ability to capture, store, and access mobile communications, text messages, and other online communications. However, the window of time that the data can be stored is supposedly 12 months.

I would bet money that you have heard of Edward Snowden by now, but some people can’t seem to recall why he is famous. No, he’s not a famous movie star. He is a former N.S.A. agent that released massive amounts of data that showed how the UK was caught tapping fiber-line communications (as well as the US). In fact, earlier this year a parliamentary committee released a report that showed the GCHQ had taken surveillance measures on computers, mobile devices, and various networks to spy on domestic communication channels.

Many people seem to think the UK government has slammed an iron fist down in response to recent EU rulings to solve the problems of copyright enforcement and copyright infringement. However, this doesn’t seem to be the reality. Within the last 10 years, copyright enforcement has become a little lax. Though there are many forms of copyright infringement, torrents and shared media in particular don’t usually merit severe consequences despite the latest EU rulings. In reality, offenders caught pirating media just get a slap on the wrist. Though you do get four warnings in the form of an email after you get caught, there are no sanctions for individuals who fail to comply with the warnings.

As such, the UK is certainly not one of the worst countries in Europe with the strongest copyright enforcement policies. For example, the Netherlands had previously imposed a tax on storage media (such as external hard drives) in an effort to compensate those who were negatively impacted by the torrent downloads. However, there are worse stories from other countries such as Sweden – whereby a 15 year old boy was put on trial for downloading 24 various movies in school. In Sweden, a two-year sentence in jail is the punishment for these crimes, making the UK look much more tolerable to copyright infringement caused by illegal downloads.

Most recently, the biggest news in Europe regarding copyright enforcement and illegal downloads is the EU’s ruling that torrent downloads are illegal. In April of 2014, the EU finally dropped the hammer on illegal torrent downloads and forced the Netherlands to declare torrent downloads as an illegal copyright infringement. Up until this point, Dutch individuals had the full legal right to download copyrighted materials via torrents without any consequences as long as they were for personal use. Now the Netherlands, like the UK, has laws that prohibit the downloading of copyrighted material.

Internet Privacy In the UK

Internet privacy in the UK isn’t too great for the average Internet user right now. Between governmental surveillance and marketing firms using cookies to track online browsing activities, there are a lot of risks that citizens aren’t aware of. In fact, the governmental website outright states that they will monitor your IP address, browser type and version, as well as how you use their site. Oh, and let’s not forget communications that are one end foreign and one end domestic. In these situations, not only could a UK governmental entity capture your data, but the foreign government as well.

Internet privacy today in the UK, when compared to the rest of Europe, is really pretty frightening. Other governments in Europe don’t monitor their citizens’ data and browsing activities as much as they do in the UK, and there have been many drafts of laws that would essentially give the government unchecked power to spy on their citizens. Also, consider that the UK government isn’t the only threat. Many attackers are international, as was discovered due to the reports from Snowden. It’s no wonder why the UK was ranked as the worst country in Europe for protecting the privacy of their citizens.

The largest and most shocking Internet privacy event in the recent past was the discovery that the GCHQ was caught spying on domestic communications. This information was discovered due to reports released by Edward Snowden, but the worst part was the discovery that they had taken action on their own without any controlling governmental body directing them. As it turns out, the GCHQ decided of its own accord that it would take hacking measures, and the FCO did nothing to exercise control over them. This is especially frightening because it shows that the government doesn’t even have complete control over its subordinate bodies and organizations, which only further contributes to the lack of Internet privacy in the UK.



Chris Beattie
 

Managing Director & Editor in Chief at Fried.com -- I live for tech, fitness, autonomy, music and purpose.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 1 comments
supriya - January 12, 2017

Great post i must say and thanks for the information.

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