Are Proxies Legal?

Posted by Vectro 2 October 2010

DISCLAIMER: This entry was not written or proof-read by a legal professional. It is based on experience in the proxy business as well as independent research.

There is much confusion about the legality of proxies. One common question is are proxies legal? The simple answer is ‘Yes’ for some countries and ‘No’ for others. This depends on the political climate in that country. Some oppressive governments restrict access to many web sites and also ban any tools used to unblock them. Proxies are legal in America as no law has been passed against them. Because they are so widely used for the purpose of freedom from censorship and for remaining anonymous on the Internet, it is argued that their use is protected by several parts of the United States Bill of Rights. In brief, some people take the position that privacy and anti-censorship rights come into play:

First Amendment – Freedom of speech and expession.

Fourth Amendment – Protection from illegal search and seizure. Law enforcement officials need warrants to perform searches without permission.

Fifth Amendment – Protection from abusive usage of government authority. Privacy may also apply here.

Ninth Amendment – Protection of rights which you don’t know you have. It’s an odd and not often discussed rule. The supreme court almost never mentions this one.

Those who believe that 5 and 9 apply might have a tougher argument to make than those who believe that 1 and 4 mainly apply.

The Washington Supreme Court ruled that local libraries providing public Internet are allowed to censor access to any web sites. Many visitors use proxies to unblock sites which are filtered out. The interesting thing is that there are no laws passed against proxies. It could be argued that using them is a right protected by the first amendment. With this line of reasoning, libraries should not censor content or block proxies used to uncensor things. Libraries do however have the right to ask people to leave should they view content that is not socially appropriate for the general public.

Proxies are illegal in China, a country that engages heavily in censorship due to their communist style of governing. This does not stop Chinese users from finding unblockers from different locations in the world. It is especially common for them to use systems in the United States, where there are no restrictions on web browsing.

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