11 Illegal Things You Unknowingly Do on the Internet (2024)

Table of contents

  • Using Unofficial Streaming Services
  • Using Torrent Services
  • Using Copyrighted Images
  • Sharing Passwords, Addresses, or Photos of Others
  • Bullying and Trolling
  • Recording a VoIP Call Without Consent
  • Faking Your Identity Online
  • Using Other People’s Internet Networks
  • Collecting Information About People Younger Than 13
  • Extracting Audio From YouTube
  • Illegal Searches on the Internet
  • How to Keep Yourself Out of Trouble
  • Limit the information you share
  • Create strong passwords
  • Browse in incognito or private mode
  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
  • Conclusion

The internet is a huge part of our everyday lives, so the same rules apply online as they do offline — be nice and abide by the law.

To make sure you don’t get yourself into a sticky situation, we’ll go over some of the illegal things you do on the internet that are quite common but may lead to unwanted consequences. In addition to that, we'll cover the best ways to protect yourself online.

Pro tip: Using a virtual private network (VPN) is always a good idea. Read further to find out how it can keep you out of serious trouble. If you are looking for a reliable, unlimited VPN, consider giving Clario a shot — download it today.

You probably cannot imagine modern life without watching a movie online or sharing some information, like photos or addresses, with people you know. Some of these innocent things can still be illegal; let’s take a closer look at what can get you in trouble.

11 Illegal Things You Unknowingly Do on the Internet (1)

Using Unofficial Streaming Services

Many people ask, “What is illegal to watch on the internet?” Well, unofficial streaming services are illegal, so it is against the law to watch movies, TV shows, music videos, or premium sports content online for free. They can be dangerous, too. If they’ve stolen film content from production companies, what would stop them from stealing your personal data as well?

In case you were wondering, “Is streaming movies online illegal for me?” The answer is obvious: streaming movies is considered a copyright violation; thus, you can be sued.

Using Torrent Services

Torrent services are yet another way for users to get pirated copies of movies and music. Through torrents, copyrighted material can be accessed without paying for it, which is unfair to its creators and also illegal. Most music and films are subject to copyrights owned by the people who created them.

Using Copyrighted Images

Despite popular opinion, unless it’s in the public domain, any image or photo on the internet has an owner — photographers, corporations, and other creators. This means you can’t use these images for personal or commercial purposes without due permission, payment, or attribution.

Sharing Passwords, Addresses, or Photos of Others

Are you wondering whether it is illegal to post someone's address online? Yes, it is, if it happens on a public forum without their knowledge and/or with the intention to harm them.

Is it illegal to take a picture of someone and post it on the internet? Yes, if you're on private property that isn’t yours. As for public places, you don’t need consent for taking a picture and posting it online in such a setting. However, it’s more polite to ask for consent anyway.

Bullying and Trolling

Cyberbullying and trolling are both widespread phenomena now that a greater number of people have access to smartphones and the internet. However, apps now have the authority to take action against such individuals. There are several laws regarding cyberbullying, and usually, it’s treated as a civil matter but can sometimes turn into criminal offense charges and jail time.

Recording a VoIP Call Without Consent

Voice over Internet Protocol calls (VoIP) use technologies such as business phone system that support the delivery of voice communication over the internet. The use of such technologies to film, record, or photograph any person or thing in secret is illegal. Thus, you should obligatorily obtain consent before recording.

Faking Your Identity Online

Identity fraud by using someone else's information without their knowledge is a crime when the aim is to deceive people or defraud the person themselves. Using an inaccurate age for social media sites goes against the “terms of use,” and while not against the law, it is still dangerous and can potentially expose minors to decreased privacy.

Using Other People’s Internet Networks

In most US states, there are no laws prohibiting such behavior, but then, no laws allow it either. However, using someone else's internet, which they solely pay for, without their permission is illegal because it’s essentially stealing. Borrowing someone else’s WiFi can be dangerous too.

Collecting Information About People Younger Than 13

Gathering and using data about children under 13 (through surveys, etc.) violates the Children’s Online Protection Act and, without verifiable consent from parents/guardians, it’s 100% illegal.

On the same note, is it illegal to lie about your age online? If you lie about your age to get onto a website intended for adults, you’re most likely to be blocked if someone reports you. Though some websites requiring personal data may not really need it, children may be exposed to some illicit content if they lie about their age.

Extracting Audio From YouTube

According to YouTube’s terms of service, copyrighted content can’t be downloaded or ripped without explicit permission from the content owner. In US copyright laws, extracting audio for personal use is simply not advisable.

Illegal Searches on the Internet

Few people know that some Google searches may be illegal. Here are some FAQs you should get familiar with to stay safe while surfing online:

  • Can a Google search be illegal? Yes, some terms are illegal to Google, and your activity after these searches can be monitored by the authorities.
  • What is illegal to search on the internet? What is illegal to type into Google? Some search terms that can land you in jail include child pornography, hiring a criminal, and other questionable terms (e.g., bomb-making).
  • Does Google report illegal searches? No, but it has algorithms in place to prevent you from seeing the results of illegal internet searches.

How to Keep Yourself Out of Trouble

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure you’re covered in case you step into something illegal online. The following safety measures can help keep you secure.

11 Illegal Things You Unknowingly Do on the Internet (2)

Limit the information you share

Avoiding oversharing on social media is the number one way to protect your information from cybercriminals. Using your real name and age is fine, but putting up personal pictures or giving out your address or any other contact information can be dangerous. This could potentially lead to criminals stealing your identity and committing cybercrimes on your behalf.

Create strong passwords

Weak passwords are easy to guess and even easier to hack. One of the threats is that an attacker may get remote control over your device, making it part of a botnet and thus involving you in illicit activities without you even knowing it.

Following these password guidelines to create strong passwords is your best bet against getting hacked:

  • Create long passwords
  • Use numbers and symbols
  • Mix capital and small letters

Browse in incognito or private mode

Incognito mode doesn’t save your browsing history or cookies, so it’s a fairly safe and private way to browse the internet. However, the authorities can still track your web activity while browsing in private mode, especially if it appears to be illegal.

Another option is using the Tor browser to surf the web anonymously, though it may provide some limited opportunities online.

Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A VPN uses encryption to create a secure private network from a public connection, giving you complete online anonymity.

By using a VPN, you can protect yourself from something illicit or controversial. Imagine accidentally looking at illegal material on the internet but realizing it too late. It is normal not to have a clear idea of what Google searches are illegal. In any case, a VPN will be able to hide your:

  • location and IP address
  • browsing history
  • web activity
  • devices
  • location for streaming

If you like the idea of staying safe and anonymous online, you can download the Clario VPN to give you greater privacy and security.


Just because certain activities are common, this does not mean they're not illegal things to do on the internet, so you should make an effort to stay safe online. Keeping personal information off the internet, creating strong passwords, or using a private browsing mode are great ways to achieve that.

Read more:

  • Top 15 Internet Safety Rules for Everyone
  • What Is Sextortion and What to Do if You Fall Prey to It
  • Which companies track our personal data the most?
11 Illegal Things You Unknowingly Do on the Internet (2024)


11 Illegal Things You Unknowingly Do on the Internet? ›

In California it is illegal to have caller ID • In California it's against regulations to let phones ring more than nine times in state offices. It is illegal to cry on the witness stand. Lodi: It is illegal to own or sell "Silly String".

What are the illegal activities on the internet? ›

  • Defining cybercrime.
  • Types of cybercrime. Identity theft and invasion of privacy. Internet fraud. ATM fraud. Wire fraud. File sharing and piracy. Counterfeiting and forgery. Child pornography. Hacking. Computer viruses. Denial of service attacks. Spam, steganography, and e-mail hacking. Sabotage.

What Internet searches can get you in trouble? ›

Examples of searches that are considered illegal content to search for on the internet include:
  • Child porn. Even visiting a website that hosts child pornography can be considered a crime. ...
  • Underage chat rooms. Chatting with a minor is risky territory. ...
  • Torrenting. ...
  • Hiring a hit-man.
Jun 14, 2022

What things you didn't know is illegal? ›

In California it is illegal to have caller ID • In California it's against regulations to let phones ring more than nine times in state offices. It is illegal to cry on the witness stand. Lodi: It is illegal to own or sell "Silly String".

What is illegal but should not be? ›

For example, California specifically prohibits a long list of items, including firecrackers, skyrockets and roman candles, and only allows sales from noon, June 28 through noon, July 6. The American Pyrotechnics Association gives a state-by-state breakdown of firework laws.

Can police see what you search on the Internet? ›

Depending on the type of warrant law enforcement can access data from internet service providers, personal computers and other entities that may have relevant online activity data.

Does Google report your searches? ›

Google does not report illegal searches but may report illegal activity, particularly related to child pornography, when demanded by a court order.

Can police see your deleted search history? ›

Can police recover deleted internet history? Yes, simply by contacting your internet service provider. They are obligated by law to store records of your online activity. The only exception is that your provider could have already deleted the data if the history is older than the data retention period.

Can the FBI see my search history incognito? ›

Incognito mode doesn't stop web tracking. Your ISP, your employer, the websites you visit, search engines, the government, and other third-party snoopers can still track your browsing even if you use incognito mode.

Can the FBI see my search history? ›

Does the FBI check Internet history? All law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, use the information gathered from computer's internet browsing history, to help them investigate and ultimately resolve criminal cases. It's a very valuable information source, and just one of the many sophisticated tools they use.

What is the most common illegal act? ›

1. Larceny / Theft. Larceny-theft hits the top of the crime list, far outweighing any other crime. The numbers of larceny-theft in this country are staggering – more than 7 million reported each year, making up almost sixty percent of all reported crimes.

What common things are illegal? ›

Top 10 Illegal Things You've Probably Done at Least Once
  1. #1: Texting and Driving. Driving vs.
  2. #2: Online Streaming. ...
  3. #3: Underage Drinking. ...
  4. #4: Littering. ...
  5. #5: Marijuana. ...
  6. #6: Driving Under the Influence. ...
  7. #7: Not Cleaning Up After Your Dog. ...
  8. #8: Speeding. ...

What are the big illegal crimes? ›

There are many activities that can be characterized as transnational organized crime, including drug trafficking, smuggling of migrants, human trafficking, money-laundering, trafficking in firearms, counterfeit goods, wildlife and cultural property, and even some aspects of cybercrime.

Is it illegal to be homeless in America? ›

From a Legislative Perspective, it is Illegal to be Homeless in Virtually Every State in the USA, Except for Two – Oregon and Wyoming.

Is it illegal to send screenshots of conversations? ›

For example, if you shared a screenshot of someone's private messages or emails and shared them without the person's consent, you would be violating their privacy. Fraudsters may use screenshots to steal someone's identity by taking a picture of their driver's license or passport.

Is it illegal to lie about your age? ›

It is not illegal to lie about your birth date or provide false information on an online dating app like Tinder or eHarmony.

What illegal activities happen on the dark web? ›

These include the buying and selling of illegal drugs, weapons, passwords, and stolen identities, as well as the trading of illegal pornography and other potentially harmful materials.

What are illegal activities? ›

So, to sum up, illegal activities are all those activities that are punishable by law in a certain way. They can include various civil sanctions, but also various punishments imposed by criminal law. Criminal activities are only those activities that are punishable under criminal law.

What are the most Internet crimes? ›

In 2022, the most common type of cyber crime reported to the United States Internet Crime Complaint Center was phishing, affecting approximately 300 thousand individuals. In addition, nearly 59 thousand cases of personal data breaches cases were reported to the IC3 during that year.

What is an illegal activity committed on the Internet called? ›

Cybercrime is any criminal activity that involves a computer, networked device or a network.

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