APPARENTLY the Thai junta is attempting to take a page of out George Orwell’s dystopian novel ‘1984’, as it is looking to pass several amendments to the Computer Crime Act (CCA) that would allow the state to act like Big Brother, overseeing activities on encrypted websites.
According to documents leaked by the Thai Netizen Network (TNN) on Thursday, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is proposing an amendment to Article 20 of the CCA, which would give the ministry the green light to access and censor encrypted content on websites.
One of the leaked documents mention giving authorities the power to “issue a regulation for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to delete or restrain the dissemination of computer data, in accordance with evolving technology”.
The documents also mention deleting or stopping the dissemination of data through the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol, one of the most common encryption technologies in use today.
Many of the most widely-used websites and platforms, like Facebook and Gmail, utilize SSL, offering secure connections to users transferring sensitive information. But the amendments would allow the government to ban the use of the SSL protocol.
The changes would also force ISPs and social media users to comply with the government’s demands – at the cost of the public’s privacy and freedom of expression.
Besides allowing the government to intercept emails and collect login details, the amendments plan to criminalize any computer data which may breach other criminal laws, as well as content that could spark public disturbance.
Article 15 of the revised bill stipulates that “any provider who either cooperates or conspires in, or permits a violation of Article 14 within their service provision, shall be punishable in the same way as a violator of Article 14.”
The changes are believed to have been brought forward to help make the Single Gateway project possible. The project, which has been likened to the Great Firewall of China, is meant to aid the Thai military government’s efforts to control the internet and its use by reducing multiple internet gateways to a single one.
In April, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), the country’s legislative body, unanimously approved the CCA amendments, which are currently under review by a committee.
Human rights organizations have protested the proposal, expressing their concerns that some of the articles in the revised bill would restrict the public’s rights and infringe on their privacy.
Amnesty International Thailand’s vice chairwoman Pornpen Kongkajornkiat has sent a letter to the NLA saying that Article 14 of the bill was “ambiguous and open to broad interpretation”, reported the Nation.
Netizens have expressed their doubts and about allowing the government access to such sensitive information, as there were two massive online data leaks in March, which saw real names, nationalities, passport numbers, as well as addresses in Thailand, made available on a government-sanctioned website.