Virtual private network (VPN) operator ExpressVPN is pulling its servers out of India, the company said in a blogpost on Thursday, ahead of the enforcement of India’s new data localisation rules.
This makes ExpressVPN the first major VPN provider to push back against the rules introduced by the country’s cybersecurity agency, the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), that will demand local storage of users’ real names, IP addresses assigned to them, usage patterns and other identifying data, from June 27.
With a recent data law introduced in India requiring all VPN providers to store user information for at least five years, ExpressVPN has now made the decision to remove its Indian-based VPN servers, the company said in the blog.
“The new data law initiated by India’s Computer Emergency Response Team, intended to help fight cybercrime, is incompatible with the purpose of VPNs, which are designed to keep users’ online activity private,” it said.
According to operator, the law is also overreaching and leaves room for possible abuse.
“We believe the damage done by potential misuse of this kind of law far outweighs any benefit that lawmakers claim would come from it,” it added.
CERT-In though, which revealed the new guidelines on April 26, has argued that the government needs the details to fight cybercrime even though privacy may be the unique selling point of VPN services.
In terms of the user experience, however, ExpressVPN has said that there will be a minimal difference since Indian users will still be able to use its service via “virtual” India servers located in Singapore and the UK.
“We will never collect logs of user activity, including no logging of browsing history, traffic destination, data content, or DNS queries. We also never store connection logs, meaning no logs of IP addresses, outgoing VPN IP addresses, connection timestamps or session durations,” the company said.
The virtual locations, according to the company, mirror the registered IP address of the host country while the server is physically located in another country.
Virtual locations are often used, where necessary, to provide faster, more reliable connections.
“As for internet users based in India, they can use ExpressVPN confident that their online traffic is not being logged or stored, and that it’s not being monitored by their government,” assured the VPN operator.
- By Indrajit Basu