Virtual private network (VPN) penetration was the highest in the UAE globally during January-June 2022 at 25.72 per cent, surpassing Qatar.
According to Atlas VPN data shared exclusively with Khaleej Times, 2.543 million VPN applications were downloaded in the first half of this year, accounting for 43 per cent of last year’s total VPN downloads which totalled 5.88 million.
Atlas VPN ranked 85 countries in terms of VPN usage. The VPN penetration rate was calculated by summing up VPN downloads by country and dividing them by the country’s population. The VPN download data is extracted from Google Play Store and Apple App Store using the Sensor Tower service for data in 2020 and 2021. The data for H1 2022 was extracted using AppTweak.
The number of virtual private network downloads in the UAE has been decreasing, of late. In 2020, 6.09 million applications were downloaded which dropped to 5.88 million in 2021 and it’s expected that the full year’s number in 2022 will be less than last year’s figures.
The drop in adoption in the UAE rate is attributed to residents becoming more cautious about their privacy as well as a slowdown in Internet connectivity speed. In addition, VPN applications also consume a large amount of mobile phone data and low-quality VPNs don’t work well for long as they drain the batteries faster and slow down devices.
According to Nord Security, VPNs are also used to access the restricted content such as dating, gambling, pornography, drugs, and VoIP websites among others.
In the UAE, the usage of VPN applications is not illegal if it’s used in line with the guidelines of the authorities. But its misuse can attract imprisonment and a fine between Dh500,000 to Dh2 million under Article 10 of the UAE Cyber Law.
VPN applications can be used by companies, institutions and banks for internal purposes.
Qatar had the highest adoption rate last year at 69.69 per cent as against UAE’s 59.52 per cent. The Gulf region usually sees a very high penetration rate among all the countries due to restrictions on accessing internet content.
Among the other countries, Qatar has the second highest penetration rate at 24 per cent followed by Russia at 23.9 per cent, Singapore at 20.3 per cent, Oman at 18.45 per cent, Saudi Arabia at 15.15 per cent and Kuwait at 12 per cent.