Thai cafes forced to track customers’ wifi use, sparking free speech fears —


Thai cafes forced to track customers’ wifi use, sparking free speech fears

Minister says law to retain browsing records would help monitor ‘fake news’, but critics say it will be used to stifle dissent

The Thai government has come under fire for a new regulation that forces coffee shop owners to track and store the data of customers using their wifi, a move critics say will be used to stifle political dissent and free speech.

Thailand’s digital economy and society ministry has demanded that cafe owners retain a log file of their customers’ browsing data for at least 90 days, in line with Section 26 of the country’s Computer Crimes Act.

The new rule will allow authorities to more easily identify and track down internet users deemed to be violating Thai law.

The digital economy and society minister, Buddhipongse Punnakanta, said the data would be used by Thailand’s new “fake news centre”, which opened this August to monitor and track “false and inappropriate” reports.

Thai business owners, especially small-scale operators, have complained the new rule would mean added cost, because they would have to purchase servers to store the data, while also burdening customers who would have to provide their personal information in order to log on to their wifi.

Thai cafes forced to track customers’ wifi use, sparking free speech fears

The ministry suggested coffee shops and internet cafes keep paper records if concerned about data storage costs.

The announcement comes in the same week that Karn Pongpraphapan, a 25-year-old pro-democracy activist, was arrested for allegedly insulting the monarchy online.

In a Facebook post on 2 October, Karn made reference to the grisly fates of past European monarchs, although he did not specifically mention the Thai royal family.

It is forbidden to insult the monarchy in Thailand, which has among the strictest lese-majesty laws in the world.

Critics say the new data retention rule could also be used to stifle political dissent and free speech.

Arthit Suriyawongkul, coordinator of the NGO Thai Netizen, a group that advocates digital rights, told the Bangkok Post that activists would push for an amendment to the controversial legislation.

“Does the government really think they can catch bad people with this?” he said in response to the new rule, “Or is it just a way to threaten people with the knowledge that they are being watched?”.

Internet, Law

You may like these posts

Gambling in Thailand — Underground Thai Lottery

Gambling in Thailand is for the most part illegal. Outside of the official Thai lottery, gambling on the outcome of events such as Muay Thai, football and cock-fighting are all il… Read more

Cock Fighting in Thailand — Thai Fighting Cocks

Cock fighting in Thailand is legal and very popular in many areas, particularly in the rural North/North East. On the other hand gambling is illegal in Thailand, save for the nati… Read more

How to Open a Thai Bank Account: A Foreigner’s Guide

A greater number of foreigners live in Thailand than anywhere else in Southeast Asia. Naturally then, there’s a strong demand for opening bank accounts here. Yet the rules have al… Read more

The Unexplained Phenomenon of Mekong Lights

This strange event happens yearly in late October to early November under a full moon sky. The lights are usually glowing red-orange balls rising out of the Mekong River. Hence, t… Read more

Getting Married to a Thai Bride — Customs and Traditions

Getting married to a Thai bride may well involve customs and traditions that seem a little alien to someone from the West. Thai brides and their families may well want to follow t… Read more

Thailand bans street liquor ‘yadong’ after toad venom deaths

After a particularly funky variant made with toad’s venom was blamed for two fatalities in Chonburi , the Excise Department on Friday said all yadong street stalls are illegal and… Read more

Massive tax hike coming for CO2-belching ‘big bikes’

Nutthakorn Utensute, director of the department’s Bureau of Tax Planning, said this weekend the Cabinet had acknowledged the tax hike for high-powered motorcycles based on CO2 emi… Read more

French couple survive attack by “killer wasps” but trekking guide is killed

A French man was out of hospital but his 59 year old wife was still in hospital in Chiang Rai. The attack happened on Saturday. Villagers in Pha Tai, Thaton informed the police … Read more

Thailand police officer arrested for allegedly stealing 50 service pistols

Police Senior Sgt-Major Charin Butrdee has been decommissioned and faces investigation for disciplinary misconduct, deputy police spokesman Pol Colonel Krisana Pattanajaroen said … Read more

Norwegian man Stein Arne Jensen, dies in South Pattaya condo fire

Police and forensic investigators rushed to the scene where firefighters were attempting to put out the blaze that reportedly started in room 3/319 A6 on 9th floor. Both water hos… Read more