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2024 VPN statistics: The who, how, why, and where of VPN use worldwide

Verified by Amy Reeves

VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are big business.

The VPN market – already worth around $44.6 billion in 2022 – is projected to hit an incredible $77.1 billion by 2026. In some countries – like the Netherlands – VPN market sizes are growing by as much as 76 per cent. While 61 per cent of internet users in (the heavily censored) Indonesia rely on VPNs every month.

By encrypting your connection to the internet – and masking your IP address with one from around the world – VPNs allow you to browse the internet securely and anonymously. VPNs prevent you from being tracked, help you bypass geo-restricted content, and make it extremely difficult for hackers or government agencies to trace your online activity back to you.

Yes, VPNs are popular – and will only get more so. But why are VPNs on such a meteoric trajectory, exactly? How are people using them, who’s using them, and where are VPNs most popular around the world – from both a regional and national perspective?

We’ve crunched the numbers to find out and compiled our top VPN statistics to walk you through who’s gravitating towards VPNs and why they do – before pinpointing the global epicentres of VPN use.

How are people using VPNs in 2024?

Over a third (36 per cent) of VPN users do so at every day or nearly every day, while one in four (41 per cent) browse through their VPN at least once a week. Less than a quarter (23 per cent) of VPN users engage with their VPN at least once a month or less often, indicating that, when people do have VPNs, they tend to use them. But what are they using them for?

Well, the most common reason (43.6 per cent) people use VPNs is for personal reasons only (according to a report by, 23.1 per cent of VPN users cite business and personal reasons for having a VPN and a third (33.3 per cent) of VPN users employ them for business reasons only.

For privacy

By masking your IP address with one from their own servers, VPNs offer a level of privacy and internet anonymity that is, unfortunately, all too rare in 2024.

This makes it tough for websites and third parties to intercept, eavesdrop on, or trace your internet traffic back to you. Given some of the startling – and expanding – surveillance powers the Online Safety Bill and Investigatory Powers Act in the UK already have to spy on the traffic of its citizens, the layer of online anonymity VPNs provide has never been more crucial.

For content access

Another reason VPNs are so popular is that they unblock geo-restricted content, and allow users to tap into global content libraries.

As our guide to the top Netflix statistics demonstrates, the size of each streaming service’s respective content library differs based on the country. (Slovakian Netflix, for instance, boasts 8,427 titles, while Uganda’s has just 969.) The effect of this is that, when you travel abroad, you may not be able to access the same content you can in the country you reside.

With a VPN, though, you can use an IP address from your home country – no matter where you are in the world. A VPN achieves this through a vast array of servers located in a wide range of countries across the world.

The data reflects this, with almost a quarter (22 per cent) of VPN users polled by Global Web Index (GWI) citing “accessing better entertainment content” as a reason for their VPN use. This is echoed by a Statista report, which states that streaming out-of-market content is a motivating factor for more than a quarter (26 per cent) of VPN users.

For safe online transactions

By encrypting your internet connection, VPNs turn data into complex code that can only be deciphered by the intended recipient. This means that, when it comes to making a transaction online – be that making a purchase, paying a bill, or reimbursing a friend – your data is safeguarded from interception by hackers.

This is particularly important when you’re forced to use public wifi networks – which are notorious for their lack of security – while out and about. By creating a secure tunnel to transmit your data, VPNs protect you from any bad actors operating on the same network from spying on your login credentials, and gaining access to your most sensitive information.

VPNs can also block malware and detect phishing – a form of cybercrime that involves fraudsters tricking people into giving up personal information, usually by posing as a legitimate entity – to provide an even more comprehensive layer of online protection. (To find out more about phishing, learn how to arm yourself against it, and explore the latest phishing statistics, explore our in-depth article on the topic.)

Against the backdrop of VPN’s extensive security benefits, 24 per cent of VPN users cite protection on public wifi networks as a reason for using it, while a further 20 per cent use VPNs to provide increased protection when they shop online ( Security isn’t the only reason online shoppers are using VPNs, though – according to GWI, 18 per cent of VPN users do so to access deals and discounts that would’ve otherwise been unavailable. Other internet users – 21 per cent, according to GWI – use VPNs simply to avoid their internet service provider (ISP) limiting their internet speeds (a process called “bandwidth throttling”).

Who is using VPNs?

We’ve delved into the demographic data to understand if there’s a ‘typical’ VPN user – and, if so, find out what they look like, too.

We’re also taking a look at which regions and countries have the highest VPN uptake – and diving deeper into why the country where a world-high 61 per cent of internet users have relied on a VPN in the past month.

VPN usage by gender

According to Surfshark’s 2021 report, the majority of VPN users (54 per cent) are male. 

However, this split is much closer than it used to be – GWI data from 2017 found that 62 per cent of VPN users were male, indicating the gender split has evened out in the four intervening years since – and GWI’s most recent data from 2020 vastly revises this gender split with males accounting for just 36 per cent of VPN users and females 26 per cent.) 

However, data from contradicts these results, noting that, no matter the metric or year, VPN users are always more likely to be men. It also found that the biggest gender disparity was in VPN usage for personal use – namely that, while 57 per cent of male VPN subscribers use them for personal use, only 43 per cent of females do the same.

VPN usage by generation

Looking at the generational VPN usage split, Surfshark’s data highlighted that:

  • VPN uptake was highest among millennials (those respondents aged 25 to 34 for the survey’s purposes) – 22.8 per cent of whom reported that they use a VPN.
  • The tech-literate Gen Z were surprisingly underrepresented in terms of VPN usage, with just 16.5 per cent of the 16 to 24 demographic using a VPN to browse.
  • 45- to 54-year-olds were the next demographic most likely to use a VPN (17.4 per cent), while 35 to 44 (15.5 per cent), 55 to 64 (12.9 per cent) and 65+ (14.8 per cent) are the age groups least likely to be using a VPN.

The most likely VPN user according to Surfshark, then, is a male millennial – something which tracks with GWI’s data from 2017. That said, the most recent GWI 2020 report found that four in ten (39 per cent) VPN users were in the 16 to 22 age group – so, Gen Z – while 36 per cent belonged to the millennial 23 to 37 demographic.

This suggests that, while there’s not much between millennials and Gen Z when it comes to VPN usage, uptake among the latter is growing at a more rapid pace.

VPN usage by income and education

The GWI data also looked at VPN users’ income, finding that less than a third (30 per cent) of all VPN users belong to the middle-income (that is, the middle 50 per cent of all earners) bracket.

32 per cent of VPN users earn in the bottom 25 per cent, with 36 per cent – the most – in the top quartile. (8 per cent preferred not to say.)

Which leads us to the next, perhaps most eye-raising demographic VPN statistic here – the correlation between VPN usage and level of education.

GWI’s report found that of the surveyed individuals who had used a VPN in the past month:

  • 39 per cent had a postgraduate degree
  • 34 per cent had a university degree
  • 34 per cent had been to trade/technical school/college
  • 29 per cent had been schooled until the age of 18
  • 21 per cent had been schooled until age 16

Of course, we’re not suggesting VPN users are smarter, or more educated, than their non-VPN using counterparts. The survey’s findings could be skewed by the sample size of respondents, for one. The correlation could also relate to socio-economic factors, with more educated people having higher-paying jobs and, thus, more able to purchase VPN subscriptions. (Although there is a wealth of cheap VPNs available – and high-quality ones, at that.)

VPN usage by occupation

While there isn’t any data that breaks down VPN usage by occupation right now, some statistics are instructive.

Namely, that a third (34 per cent) of VPN users report that it’s a job requirement – so a lot must belong to the white-collar corporate world. 31 per cent of VPN users also say that they use a VPN to log into a corporate network, which adds further credence to this theory.

Global VPN uptake

Looking at global VPN data, it’s clear that the desire for online privacy knows no borders – although the uptake in some regions and countries is stronger than in others.

From a regional perspective, VPN use is most prevalent in the Middle East and Africa, and Asia Pacific: where 35 per cent of both regions’ respondents to a GWI survey reported that they’d used a VPN in the past month. Latin America (31 per cent) was next, followed by North America (25 per cent), and Europe (24 per cent).

Breaking it down at a country level, Indonesia leads the way for VPN usage, with over half (61 per cent) of its citizens having used a VPN in the last month. The reasons for this lie in Indonesia’s thorough and wide-ranging regime of internet censorship.

Developed at a cost of $14 billion and launched in 2018, Indonesia’s censoring system is a set of policies that aims to root out anything the government deems “negative content”. It’s an umbrella that encompasses any websites ruled defamatory or pornographic, that violates social norms, or that are deemed “immoral”. And it’s been busy.

Between August 2018 and July 2021, for instance, Indonesian censors blocked almost 1.1 million pornography sites and around 387,000 gambling sites. That said, VPNs remain legal and unrestricted in Indonesia. 

According to GWI, the rest of the most VPN-reliant countries (those with the highest percentage of users in the month preceding the data collection) include:

  • India (45 per cent)
  • Saudi Arabia (44 per cent)
  • Malaysia (43 per cent)
  • United Arab Emirates (42 per cent)
  • Philippines (41 per cent)
  • Turkey (40 per cent)
  • South Africa (37 per cent)
  • Thailand (36 per cent)
  • Vietnam (35 per cent)
  • Singapore (34 per cent)
  • Colombia (33 per cent)
  • Egypt (32 per cent)
  • Brazil (31 per cent)
  • Mexico (30 per cent)
  • China (29 per cent)

Why are people using VPNs?

Now, we know how people use VPNs, and – thanks to the demographic and gender-specific data above – who is using them.

Which begs the question: why are people all over the world using VPNs? Let’s take a look.

Concerns about digital privacy

In 2024, it seems every interested party – be it the search engines you use, the websites you browse, or the ISP you rely on for connection – wants to build up profiles about who you are, what you like, and what you do online.

Worse still, it seems like when these entities aren’t purposely mining our data, they’re accidentally losing it; the fact that over 364 million people were affected by data breaches in 2023 alone demonstrates that, sadly, our information is never safe out there.

Fortunately, though, the statistics suggest that the internet’s lack of privacy is a phenomenon its users are acutely aware of:

  • Digital Information World and Tinuiti found that more than half (52 per cent) of surveyed consumers agreed that “there’s no such thing as online privacy”.
  • 43 per cent felt governments should be doing more to protect their online privacy, while an even larger proportion (55 per cent) put this onus on private companies.
  • More alarmingly, though, a staggering 80 per cent of internet users felt they had no control over their digital data.

GWI data backs this up. It reported that, among the reasons VPN users gave for its use:

  • 51 per cent use VPNs to protect their privacy on public wifi networks
  • 44 per cent use VPNs to retain their anonymity while browsing
  • 37 per cent use VPNs to communicate more securely
  • 20 per cent use VPNs to hide their web browsing from the government
  • 14 per cent use VPNs to connect to the Tor browser

Similarly, half (50 per cent) of VPN users cited “general privacy” as a motivator for their VPN usage. Among those who use VPNs for personal reasons alone, privacy was even more important (59 per cent), although less key for business users (18 per cent).

VPNs can also prevent trackers and cookies from tracking your behaviour online – helping prevent websites and search engines from building up a profile about your preferences and proclivities online. Avoiding cookies was a reason behind 9 per cent of VPN users, while 17 per cent said they wanted to hide their activity from search engines (GWI).

Bypassing internet censorship

Earlier, we discussed how VPNs can mask the location of your IP address – making it appear as though you’re logging in from a different country.

And, for users in the UK and US, this feature was highly sought after:

  • Accessing social networks or news services was cited by around one in five (18 per cent) of the UK- and US-based respondents GWI surveyed as a reason they use VPNs.
  • 22 per cent of this same cohort listed “accessing better content” as a VPN motivator.
  • 23 per cent, however, weren’t interested in watching their media through legal means – and instead use a VPN to access restricted download/torrent streaming sites.

Despite the love of UK and US users of accessing content from countries beyond their own, this VPN feature is more than just a convenience allowing you to keep tabs on your favourite shows while you travel. It also enables you to unlock often crucial websites, apps, and messaging platforms that may be blocked – whether due to social, political, or economic reasons – in countries you’re passing through.

China is a notable example. Gmail, BBC News, WhatsApp, and Slack – all crucial tools for working, communicating, and staying informed – are all among the websites banned in the country. To access these websites and apps (which also include Spotify, Wikipedia, Instagram, Quora, Snapchat, and YouTube) you’ll need to download a VPN before you arrive in China (because the VPN providers’ websites are blocked there, too), then use them every time you browse.

Given that many streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+, which, despite being two of the few sites not blocked in China, have no content available there, it’s no surprise that accessing better entertainment was the country’s top reason for using VPNs (55 per cent).

China isn’t a standalone case, either.

VPNs are either restricted – or outright blocked – in a range of countries around the world. And according to Surfshark, almost half (45 per cent, or 2.4 billion) of internet users live in countries that, in one way or another, restrict VPN usage.

Countries in which VPN usage is restricted include:

  • China
  • Egypt
  • India
  • Iraq
  • Myanmar
  • Pakistan
  • Russia
  • Tanzania
  • Turkey
  • United Arab Emirates

In these countries, using a VPN isn’t illegal: hence why India, China, Turkey, Russia, and Egypt, where VPN usage is restricted, are also some of the countries where VPN usage is the biggest. However, these countries do put up more roadblocks to VPN usage – and you’ll want to equip yourself with more specific knowledge about these countries’ VPN policies before you travel.

In India, for instance, VPNs have been subject to restrictions since April 28, 2022, when the government asked VPN providers to store details about their users – including names, email addresses, contact details, and IP addresses – for five years. (In response, VPN providers such as NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and Surfshark, which have strict no-logs policies, all withdrew their servers from India.)

In some countries, however, VPN usage is outright illegal – and may come with draconian penalties for non-compliance.

VPNs are against the law in:

  • Belarus
  • Iran
  • North Korea
  • Oman
  • Turkmenistan

Why don’t people use VPNs?

Given we’ve looked here at why people do use VPNs, it’s important to delve deeper into the reasons why they don’t.

According to Surfshark, the most common reason people don’t use VPNs is that they simply don’t need one, with six in ten (59 per cent of) participants feeling this way.

Despite many free VPNs being available, the second-most popular reason non-VPN users gave were it being too expensive (22 per cent), followed closely by “too much trouble to set up” (21 per cent), and “unsure of the benefits” (20 per cent). The remaining reasons were:

  • Not trusting that VPNs are secure (7 per cent)
  • Being unable to access the sites they’d like (3 per cent)
  • Speed issues (1 per cent)

Where are people using VPNs?

Online privacy and anonymity should be inalienable rights that all internet users have access to. The world doesn’t, however, work like that; and, as we’ve seen, different countries have contrasting VPN policies that range from basic restrictions to downright bans.

That said, VPN users tend to find a way – and, as we’ll see, the countries with privacy-curbing regimes in place tend to be the same ones where VPNs are most popular.

Let’s take a look at the countries where people are using VPNs, then – the UK and US, for instance, where 77 per cent of VPN users do so every day or at least once a week – as well as the countries where they don’t.

Countries with the largest VPN market size

Valued at $11.64 billion in 2022, India’s VPN market size is worth more than that of any other country around the world.

At $9.9 billion, China is a close second – unsurprising given the amount of websites blocked by the country’s totalitarian internet censorship regime – while Indonesia comes third with $4.4 billion. The rest of the countries with the largest VPN market sizes are:

  • United States ($2.7 billion)
  • Brazil ($1.6 billion)
  • Philippines ($1.2 billion)
  • Turkey ($0.95 billion)
  • Russia ($0.88 billion)
  • Mexico ($0.88 billion)
  • Vietnam ($0.86 billion)
  • Thailand ($0.71 billion)
  • Germany ($0.63 billion)
  • Egypt ($0.6 billion)
  • United Kingdom ($0.5 billion)
  • Saudi Arabia ($0.48 billion)

That the Philippines and Brazil’s VPN market sizes rank so highly makes sense. With an average screen time of 5hrs 31mins in 2023, the Philippines leads the world in this metric, while at 5hrs 28 mins, Brazil is a close second.

Of the countries with the largest VPN market sizes above, Thailand (5hrs 55mins) and Mexico (4hrs 32mins) are also in the top 10 biggest screen-using countries – which you can explore in greater detail in our guide to screen time statistics.

Among the fastest growing VPN markets – as explored in a GWI report from 2020 – are Netherlands (76 per cent), Australia (69 per cent), Japan (62 per cent), Russia (61 per cent), and South Korea (60 per cent).

Countries with the with the lowest VPN uptake

We’ve covered the places where VPN usage is booming.

But what about the ones where it isn’t?

Of the countries surveyed in the GWI data, Japan’s citizens were the most VPN-shy, with just 9 per cent of them having used one in the past month. Israel (15 per cent), South Korea (17 per cent), France (20 per cent), Italy (21 per cent), New Zealand (21 per cent), and the UK (23 per cent) were also relatively underrepresented in the rankings.

That said, this data only surveyed 36 countries – and, given how many more countries out there that use VPNs, but haven’t yet been tapped for data, it’s clear that more in-depth and wide-ranging research into VPN usage around the world is required.

In summary

As we pointed out in the opening lines of this article, VPN is, indeed, big business. And now – after collecting, curating, and crunching the VPN statistics here – it’s clear that VPNs are popular for a very good reason.

VPNs provide a liferaft in a sea of data mining and data breaches; an oasis in a desert of the mishandling and misappropriating of our most sensitive information by hackers, companies, and – unbelievably – governments alike.

The good news? That, as the statistics have shown, more and more internet users are coming to treat the surveilling proclivities of the internet with the healthy scepticism they deserve; and are valuing their online privacy with renewed vigour and verve. To pursue their right to internet anonymity, and learn about the various ways – which include not only VPNs, but the Tor browser, proxy servers, and privacy-focused search engines – this can be achieved.

The not-so-good news? That, despite over half (52 per cent) of internet users agreeing with the assertion that “there’s no such thing as online privacy”, only around 31 per cent of the world’s internet users use a VPN to browse the internet. This disparity suggests that there’s more work to be done to educate the world around VPN’s myriad benefits: and why, in today’s increasingly complex online space, they’re such an indispensable asset.

Frequently asked questions

VPNs offer several important benefits for internet users looking to regain control over their data and privacy – and attain some level of anonymity – online. VPNs:

  • Encrypt your internet traffic, ensuring that the data transmitted between your device and the VPN server is private and secure.
  • Protect you against cyber threats, such as malware and phishing, and safeguard you as you browse – something which is particularly important on public wifi networks.
  • Hide your IP address, making it challenging for advertisers, websites (and even government agencies) to track what you do online.
  • Prevent these same entities from using trackers and cookies to monitor your online behaviour, and use these insights to target you with personalised marketing.
  • Unlock geo-restricted or censored content when you’re overseas, and unblock banned social media or messaging platforms and apps.
  • Offer all this at a reasonable cost – particularly if you take advantage of one of the best VPN deals, as collated by Independent Advisor.

VPN usage has been on rising – steadily and inexorably – for several years now. GWI, which tracked VPN statistics on an annual basis until 2020, reported that, while just 28 per cent of survey respondents had used a VPN in the past month in 2017, that number increased to 29 per cent in 2018, and 31 per cent in 2021. And, while no reliable estimates of the exact number of VPN users in the world exist as of 2023, Surfshark puts this number at around 1.6 billion (31 per cent of the world’s 5.37 billion internet users.)

We can also derive that VPN adoption is increasing from the long litany of countries it’s growing in. Of the 36 countries GWI examined VPN usage in, adoption had failed to increase in just five countries (Turkey, Egypt, China, Taiwan, and Brazil) over the four-year period assessed.

Add to this the projected global VPN market size we mentioned at the beginning of the article – from $44.6 billion in 2022 to $137.7 billion by 2030 – and it’s clear VPN is trending in one direction, and one direction only. Up!

Indonesia is the only country with a majority of VPN users, with 61 per cent of individuals in the country surveyed by GWI reporting they’d used a VPN in the last month.

India, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, and Turkey all scored 40 per cent or higher, which – while obviously not a majority – still means their citizens rank among the most prolific VPN users in the world.

The legal ramifications of VPNs vary based on where you are in the world. In the majority of countries – including the UK, US, Canada, and most of Europe – VPNs are legal, and you’re free to download and use them. That said, VPNs are illegal in other countries – including Turkmenistan, Iran, Belarus, Oman, and North Korea – and their usage comes with caveats and restrictions in a range of yet more countries: including China, Turkey, and Egypt.

Of course, even in the countries where VPNs are legal, using them to engage in illegal activities still remains, well – absolutely illegal.

Rob Binns


Rob is an experienced writer and editor, with a wide range of experience in many topics, including renewable energy and appliances, home security, and business software. He has written for Eco Experts, Home Business, Expert Market, Payments Journal, and Yahoo! Finance. . 

Rob has a passion for smart home technology, online privacy, as well as the environment and renewables, which leads him to the Independent Advisor where he writes about related topics, including cyber security, VPNs, and solar power.

Amy Reeves


Amy is a seasoned writer and editor with a special interest in home design, sustainable technology and green building methods.

She has interviewed hundreds of self-builders, extenders and renovators about their journeys towards individual, well-considered homes, as well as architects and industry experts during her five years working as Assistant Editor at Homebuilding & Renovating, part of Future plc.

Amy’s work covers topics ranging from home, interior and garden design to DIY step-by-steps, planning permission and build costs, and has been published in Period Living, Real Homes, and 25 Beautiful Homes, Homes and Gardens.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Amy manages homes-related content for the site, including solar panels, combi boilers, and windows.

Her passion for saving tired and inefficient homes also extends to her own life; Amy completed a renovation of a mid-century house in 2022 and is about to embark on an energy-efficient overhaul of a 1800s cottage in Somerset.