Internet is heavily filtered in Oman, particularly when it comes to social and religious content. While political content is generally available, there are censorship guidelines that dictate what can be said on internet. Online surveillance is widespread and there is only one ISP, Omantel, which is controlled by the government. Omantel is also in charge of implementing filters to control the content that can be accessed by users, although it insists that the censorship is applied based on customers’ demand.
The majority of the content that is blocked is related to content that is considered as pornographic, but censorship in Oman also covers drugs and criticism of Islam. Some websites that include provocative or explicit images are banned and there are restrictions applied when it comes to gay and lesbian themes, although websites that are focused on LGBT rights are generally not subject to censorship.
Only Oman-based VoIP call are legal and in general, it is not possible to use Skype and similar services, unless a VPN is used. It should be note that websites and applications that aim to bypass censorship (such as web proxy sites) are also blocked and while VPNs are in a legal grey area, individuals are unlikely to face prosecution for using these services.
Privacy is a concern for internet users across the world and just like in other nations, the government in Oman is known for monitoring chats, emails, calls and other private communications. Furthermore, those who criticize the government are likely to be tracked through their IP address and in the past, several bloggers were arrested for expressing their disagreement with official policies. The situation has raised concern among human rights campaigners and has shown that freedom of expression is limited in Oman. While internet cafes have become very popular, owners are asked to supervise users and activity monitoring is encouraged.
Using a VPN in Oman
As previously mentioned, the legal status of VPN services in Oman is not certain and while there have been plans to ban them, no action has been taken so far. VPNs are widely used as a solution to overcome censorship and to defend privacy against the surveillance applied by government organizations. A VPN establishes a secure tunnel to direct your data through a VPN server, which means that it keeps it safe from prying eyes. Users in Oman should consider a VPN provider that doesn’t keep logs and that has servers in locations that are close enough to provide good speeds, but that are not subject to strict data retention laws, such as Romania and Czech Republic. Here is a list of the most effective and convenient VPNs for Oman.
Golden Frog is a renowned online services provider and its VPN option, VyprVPN has become a great option for those who want to bypass censorship and enjoy online freedom. They have servers in over 50 countries, including Saudi Arabia and UAE. While these locations are next to Oman and will offer good speeds, it is advisable to connect to servers in countries like Austria, Czech Republic or Romania since they are not subject to heavy censorship or data retention laws. VyprVPn also has servers in these locations and the unique Chameleon technology will allow you to defeat firewalls and blocks effectively.
The quality and top speeds that ExpressVPN supports make it another great option to bypass filters and access the websites and applications that are blocked in Oman. Although ExpressVPN is pricey when compared to other providers, it is worth considering since it gives you access to a large selection of server locations (over 85) and the high technology of its service will ensure that you enjoy a fast and secure internet experience.
Hong Kong based provider PureVPN has gained recognition due to its easy to use VPN client, the high level of security that it offers and the good speeds that you can enjoy. With PureVPN, you will be able to access Skype and other applications without hassle. The Use Intelligence feature is very convenient as it allows you to identify the fastest server available. They have servers in over 140 countries, including Oman and neighboring options. PureVPN also offers affordable prices and professional customer support.
Mullvad is a provider based in Sweden, where data retention laws are not applied to VPNs. Furthermore, Mullvad supports a no logs policy and shared IPs that aim to enhance the privacy of your internet connection. Although the selection of servers is limited when compared to other options, it covers popular locations including United States, Canada and Netherlands. They accept Bitcoin and cash by post as methods of payment that allow you to protect your privacy.
Being a Tier-1 VPN provider gives IPVanish greater control over the security and performance of their VPN. They currently have servers in more than 60 countries across Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania and America. The user-friendly service and the great speeds that you can expect are some of the highlights of IPVanish. Although they are based in the US, they have a no logs policy that promises to keep your online activity private. The customer support is efficient and helpful.