Topped the VPN league in 2022
Games and other bandwidth hungry, independent minded Arab consumers lead the world in their use of virtual private networks (VPNs), according to a new report by privacy preserving service provider Atlas VPN. Though Britain just sneaks into number 10 in the rankings, the nations of the Gulf and the Middle East in general dominate in the early adoption of this privacy securing technology. The only other Europeans showing in the top ten are the Dutch with the Netherlands being the sixth highest user of VPNs. Britain’s high ranking could be evidence of increasing awareness of surveillance marketing or a reaction to a rising atmosphere of fear being created over censorship, according the logic of Atlas VPN’s analysis.
According to the service provider’s latest global VPN Adoption Index, VPN downloads reached 353 million in 2022 with Arabian people continuing to be the boldest adopters of this modesty preserving technology. Arab nations took pride of place at the top of the table as the highest VPN adopters globally. In the words of the Atlas VPN release they ‘dominated’ the top ten.
A number of possible explanations can be offered. Culturally, these nations can be more small-c conservative in nature and given to modesty. Independent minded mavericks may be averse to having their activities snooped upon and people in the Gulf region have a strong sense of identity. Under these circumstances they are more likely to value their own privacy, rather than let a ruthless foreign corporation invade it and use its algorithms to place its own value on their intimacy. According to Atlas VPN, Arab nations are governed by hereditary rulers who wield the majority of administrative, legislative and judicial power. The civil rights of both citizens and noncitizens are severely restricted., said Atlas.
To overcome some of those limitations, Arab residents are increasingly demanding tools that could help them regain their liberties. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are one of the primary tools people in Arab countries utilize to increase their freedom of expression and access restricted content, said the Atlas release, which revealed a rise in searches for VPNs.
United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia take four out of the top five spots on the list, with Kuwait in ninth place. On average, VPNs penetrated 31% of the market in these five countries last year. The leading country in terms of VPN adoption in 2022 was the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with a 43.18% penetration rate. Close to 4.27 million downloads originated from the country.
Stringent internet and freedom of speech restrictions are the primary cause behind the high virtual private network usage in the UAE. The UAE’s two biggest ISPs prohibit any content that violates Islamic moral norms, with gambling sites, adult websites and dating apps, including Tinder, as the primary focus. VoIP services, such as WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime, Snapchat, Viber, and Facebook Messenger, are banned and unavailable in the United Arab Emirates. “This is one of the main reasons why expatriates turn to VPNs,” said Atlas VPN.
In addition, the authorities restrict politically sensitive topics, particularly those that criticise the government. Qatar reached second place in the rankings with a VPN penetration rate of 39.2% and 1.13 million downloads during the year. Qatar is another Gulf country with substantial internet restrictions, similar to those in the UAE. The fourth place goes to Saudi Arabia. People in Saudi Arabia downloaded VPN applications 9.42 million times, which resulted in a 27.06% VPN penetration rate in 2022. The Saudi government is said to be highly efficient in its censorship of information, limiting access to a wide range of media, including newspapers, books, television, films and all internet content.
In the entertainment sector, gamers in the Gulf employ VPNs to change their IP address so they would get matched with players in other regions and to avoid bandwidth throttling. Also, VPNs are necessary for streamers to prevent DDoS attacks. In addition, the libraries of Netflix and other streaming platforms are highly limited in Arab countries. For example, in the US, Netflix has around 6,000 titles available, while in the UAE, citizens can see less than 1,000 movies and TV series. In turn, those who want to enjoy some of the shows not available in the Gulf region turn to VPNs.