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Pakistan’s Controversial Electronic Crimes Bill

This year there’ve been quite a few incidents of governments attempting to monitor and censor their citizens’ access to certain websites, going so far as putting their privacy in jeopardy. We’ve discussed  Australia, UK, Poland and recently we looked at Brazil.

So now let’s talk about Pakistan.

In April of this year, Pakistan’s National Assembly passed the controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015. This bill has been referred to as draconian by the country’s IT industry, and the language as too vague.

The bill is set to be approved by Senate before it can become law.

Critics say that the bill’s broad language will give authorities too much leeway to prosecute and censor, as it has a loose and broad definition of what’s punishable.

pakistan_broad_language

The bill was introduced in order to fight against terrorism, cyber bullying and other cyber crimes. It requires ISPs to store a record of traffic data for a year or more and grants authorities the power to seize equipment and obtain private data with no warrants needed in certain cases.

In a particular example of potential overreach, the documents grants the government the right to block acess to certain information based on the interest of Islam or the security, integrity or defense of Pakistan.

It also grants government the right to restrict access to information for morality and to promote friendly relations with foreign states.

It even goes as far as criminalizing such activities as sending unsolicited text messages illegal, or criticizing government actions on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media—either with fines or long prison sentences.

More specifically, there will be fines or imprisonment for:

  • transferring or copying sensitive basic information
  • sending irritating messages or messages for marketing purposes
  • creating  website for negative purposes
  • publishing someone’s picture without consent
  • spreading misinformation about someone
  • obtaining and retaining information about someone else

And the bill contains many more restrictions and punishments.

People in Pakistan, as well as in Brazil and unfortunately many other countries in the world, will need to have alternative methods of going online in order to protect their privacy and themselves.

There are three main options to circumvent the bill if passed:

Use a VPN – A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is the best choice for securely and anonymously browsing the internet. The service works by the user creating a secure, encrypted connection to a server in any desired location, and then any communication will go through that server.

That means that all traffic will be seen to be coming from that location, rather than the user’s true location.

Use Tor – Tor (The Onion Router) is another popular alternative that allows users to browse the internet anonymously through a decentralized system maintained by volunteer servers.

The system works by creating relays that bounce the user’s connection around from server to server, which means it’s difficult for any government body or hackers to find where the user is connecting from.

Use a Proxy – The last option is to use a proxy server which is similar to a VPN in that it directs your communications through another computer and hides it.

However, proxies do not provide adequate stability or reliability, which can be very inconvenient for modern internet users.

 

EFF has reported earlier in May that some great hope was on the horizon as some key Senators committed to opposing the bill. Still more pressure is needed from the community. Learn more here.

 

Any other tips on how to help Pakistani users browse safely and anonymously? Let us know in the comments below!

(Image: Getty) 

 



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