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UAE has introduced a federal law banning the use of VPNs to try to avoid paying for expensive VOIP services.

The new federal law, issued by The President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan late last week, is focussed on combating cybercrime.

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.”

VPNs are services that allow users anywhere in the world to connect to a private network on the internet. These are useful for online privacy, as they hide the user’s actual location.

VoIP “over-the-top” apps have long been a thorn in the sides of telecoms operators around the world, because consumers no longer need to pay international calling rates to speak to their loved ones – they can just speak to them on Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber or Snapchat.

But the UAE is one of the first governments in the world to actually regulate on behalf of and for its telecoms companies in order to help them stem loss of revenue from VoIP apps.

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.

 

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