October 06, 2007

Updates on internet monitoring in bangladesh

Previous post: Internet user profiling and monitoring in Bangladesh

Related: Internet user profiling and surveillance process initiated in Bangladesh

As I reported in my last post that BBC picked up the story. In todays morning session of BBC Bangla they digged the story deep with reactions from two experts.

One is an International law expert, law professor of Brussels University Ahmed Ziauddin Ahmed. Listen to him:

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Rush excerpts:
On Bangladesh Telecommunication regulatory commission's (BTRC) measures to regulate the Internet usage by ordering the ISPs to provide user names, addresses, internet usage information and login details.

He says the issue is alarming because:

- BTRC is not clearly saying what they will do with this information.
- BTRC is not doing it for targeted group of people or for the ones under suspicion so we remain totally in the dark.

Section 43 of the Bangladesh Constitution provides the privacy of citizens correspondence and other means of communication. It appears that BTRC’s actions are violating this provision.

If the Government has any plan for the monitoring then it has to pass an act in accordance with the constitution and international law.

In international arena other governments may impose these kinds of monitoring on their citizens built on specific charges with sufficient proof, within legal boundary and constitution.

This is where our problem lies. We don’t know why the authorities are requiring information from mass population, every user of internet. If they have some specific suspects then they can monitor them with the permission of court, this is acceptable as per the provision of Bangladesh Telecommunication act 2001. But without any specific reason the authorities have no right to gather information of internet ID, password or internet usage of all ISPs and individual users and it clearly violates the constitution.

In 2006 amendment of the BTRC act it is stated that under state of emergency power can be given to specific intelligence agencies for a specific time to monitor/record telecommunication of specific limits of users. It’s a pretty sweeping power but whether this is violating the main law, the provisions of Section 43 of the constitutions that needs to be put into perspective.

E-Bangladesh has confirmed that Section 43 of the Bangladesh constitution, that ensures “privacy of his [citizen’s] correspondence and other means of communication,” has not been suspended under the currently enforced state of emergency.

The other is the ex adviser to the Government and human rights activist Sultana Kamal:

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In today’s world of free information everybody is taking about rights of free speech, free flow of information. We are part of the Globalization but are not harnessing the good things of Globalization rather than always being subject to the negative aspects – these needs to be questioned.

Telecommunication consists of peoples’ personal conversations, spaces. In a democratic outset privacy is required to discuss on debate on issues and create viewpoints, public opinions and augment these to national and international levels but if control is put on these then it will hinder democracy.

If this is done to prevent war on terror or other illegal works as the authorities suggest then they should try to bring people into trust, try to avoid jingoistic attitudes and adopt peaceful democratic ways to deal with this. But if steps are taken always to provide security to government’s chosen specific quarters or forces putting the security of the general people in jeopardy it will only pollute the democratic environment. We have seen in the past that these measures do not achieve anything let alone prevent terrorism.

We need to discuss these issues and I think in this of civilization everybody should be aware of their individual rights, social rights, family rights.

Our rights are being violated already without us knowing. There are many wiretapping, monitoring, surveillance etc. by the Government agencies but they do it discretely because otherwise it would deem undemocratic. But with these efforts of BTRC these undemocratic means are being legalized.

The problems with these wiretapped information are that there is no way to judge whether these information are true and authentic, what are their bases etc. If any action is taken on the basis of personal judgments of the authorities the chances of flaws in that decision are greater.

Well I am surprised that after all this the Bangladeshi media are yet to pick up the story. Many mainstream bloggers are also silent. Wondering whats keeping them!

Update: BTRC canceled CSB news channel's frequency allocation. It faces certain closure.


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