VPN companies withdrawing servers from India may not impact users

Ayushi Kar | | Updated on: Jun 16, 2022

| Photo Credit: SOMASHEKARA GRN

But experts warn of escalation if government blocks services for non-compliance

Top VPN companies such as Surfshark, ExpressVPN and NordVPN have announced that they would be removing their servers from India, but consumers may notface any immediate impact. They can connect to servers outside of India to access their VPN services; however, this might potentially increase the lag time in accessing websites. But experts warn that the situation is likely to escalate, and that the government could potentially block their servers overseas, to prevent Indian customers from utilising services. 

On April 28 CERT-in issued directives, asking asking data centres, VPS and cloud service providers and Virtual Private Network service (VPN service) providers, to register and retain some of the metadata. VPN companies have been specifically directed to store validated customer names, their physical addresses, e-mail IDs, phone numbers and the reason why a customer is using the VPN, as part of the CERT-In directives.

VPN companies such as Nord, which does not wish to store customer logs, had warned that they would consider withdrawing their servers from India if these directives were implemented. Other companies such as Express VPN and Surfshark followed suit.

The Indian government remains adamant that CERT-in’s directives will by implementing by next month. Hence, top VPN players, NordVPN, Surfshark and Express VPN, have announced that they would withdraw their servers from India by July 26-27, before the implementation date.

In a statement shared with BusinessLine regarding the consumer impact of this withdrawal, a spokesperson from NordVPN said: “India has never been our major market, that said, every user is important for us, and we will do our best to meet their needs. We also believe that we are going to find a way to meet the requirements of all of our customers, regardless of their location.”

Overall, the three companies have been clear that Indian customers are still free to connect with their servers overseas to utilise their services. So, customers do not face an immediate impact. 

Privacy researcher, Srinivas Kodali, warns that given the government’s aggressive stance on this issue, the situation could escalate further. “The government could potentially block their overseas servers and thus prevent Indian citizens from accessing their services. Just like was done with Chinese apps two years ago,” Kodali explained.

Access to Indian websites with geolocated IPs will also not be possible using Nord, Express and Surfshark by people overseas now.

After the issuance for CERT-in directives, the Minister of State for Electronics and IT, Rajeev Chandrashekhar, told the VPN companies that if they do not comply with the guidelines, the only option that they have is to exit the country.

Published on June 16, 2022
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