The United Kingdom is one of the more bias places to connect to. Though the general mood of internet access is quite liberal, several uneasy changes happened in recent years. This is especially true for the legal background of internet access, surveillance, along with database and privacy rights. The United Kingdom is a member of the EU, but some aspects of internet law are separately created, as certain EU sanctions were deemed “invalid”. Overall, the trends established negatively affect internet freedom in the UK; let it be direct or indirect retention. Some very specific sanctions were made: you can read about them below.
Best VPN Services for The UK of 2018
Using a UK IP
England is one of the more popular cultures of our planet. This stems from many reasons, but two stand out: it is a heritage of England having been one of the greatest empires, and the rise of another English-speaking culture in the 20th century, of the United States. Today, this creates an increasing demand for English online content, too. However, not only is the UK internally reserved, but the country also shows a masked face to the outside online domain. Most major television and entertainment streams are geoblocked, especially the BBC family. All of this happens in opposition the EU’s directive, intending to create a single digital market.
This means that there are major advantages to using a UK IP. You will get access to the less restricted, inner online content of the country. There are even some VPN providers that specialize in UK access.
UK Online Privacy Laws
As of 2015, the United Kingdom’s internet freedom is highly affected by various laws enacted over the course of the last decade.
This tone is further highlighted by different laws the United Kingdom put to work. The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act of 2014 for example – that was made in response to the EU’s then data retention directive being rendered obsolete – states a number of crucial points. In short, it permits the keeping of telephone and internet records for one year for the police and security organizations. This does not include the actual texts or sound files themselves, rather “just” data like duration and timestamps.
Still, on 17 July 2015, sections 1 and 2 of this law were found “unlawful”. As a result, this law will need to be revised until 2016. The Communications Data Bill of 2008 for example started the Communications Capabilities Development Programme that extends the above mass monitoring to all devices including telephones and home computers. Currently, blocking is not obligatory, meaning you can volunteer to have restrictions installed. Still, this does not soothe the situation, as the UK government is still prone to make these changes.
This means that internet users inside the UK have access to potentially restricted content and even their actions are monitored in some way or another. For expats or anyone wishing to access content from outside the country’s borders, they will have a hard time partially because of geoblocks and partially because the content itself is filtered.
Internet Censorship in the United Kingdom
All internet providers in the UK are prohibited from providing access to a good number of websites right off the bat. The used system is known as “default-on or opt-in”. Since 2013, all ISP customers are not preferred viewing online content containing “dating, drugs, alcohol and tobacco, […] nudity, social networking, […] fashion and beauty, gore, cyberbullying, hacking and web-blocking circumvention tools” (Wikipedia), among others. What are a lot more alarming are blocks on sex education, suicide prevention and libraries. In our opinion, these restrictions are aimed at controlling information, and thus people’s knowledge about topics; some of which actually benefit a human life. The Pirate Bay and its many country specific domains are also frequently blocked.
Streaming Services in the United Kingdom
The availability of streaming services is crudely restricted in the UK. The BBC’s families of television and entertainment channels are altogether not accessible from the outside by default. This also includes BBC iPlayer. All 4, ITV Player and Spotify are similarly hosted on the islands. Therefore, it is easy to conclude that because so much content of the country itself is restricted, it is worth using VPN services to unblock them. The United Kingdom is also selective to specific levels. Sports streaming – especially football and the Premier League – are heavily regulated. Unofficial sources of streaming websites often come under pressure, and some lesser known music streamers are even blocked by court order. This, combined with the fact that file sharing is also opposed, points to a policy of seeing the internet as a source of profit.
As for services that are seated elsewhere (for example the U.S.), the respective countries sanction their own availability. This means that if you try access non-UK content from the UK or with the country’s IP address, you will still not get to go places. There are very few instances known where online content is not blocked between two countries based on good relations only. The EU does attempt to create a generally accessible online market for its member states, but this is also done by way of sanctions.
Free UK VPN Trials
Lastly, we would like to recommend some VPN providers that bypass all of the above issues and can provide you full access to UK online content. Liberty Shield (formerly known as UK Proxy Server) is a company focusing on UK expats, with a central theme similarly close to home ground. Their specialty is unblocking websites and streaming services like BBC, SkyGO, Hulu, among others. HideMyAss is also a great choice, as the UK-based company provides encrypted e-mail traffic and file uploading, two of the things potentially under surveillance by the UK. ExpressVPN is one of the most well known services around. Though slightly more expensive, you are bound to get a service that is full and up to par – if not better – than the rest. In our opinion, if you are curious about the full online content of the UK, a VPN is recommended, both for residents and foreigners.