Internet Privacy in Nepal being Compromised
Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA) the regulatory body of Nepal Government has started to monitor the web details of their high end clients who have an internet capacity of 1mbps or more. The decision came in action after the NTA decided to turn out on high increase of cyber crimes and fraud cases. With the rise in the cases and lack of proper cyber policies the NTA is bullying the policies in adapting its authority toward the market and internet. The move might seem right looking at the high increase of cyber crimes and frauds but what about future. Can we manage the growing prospect of cyber risk by creating such authoritative rules in action? I bet no. Internet today is the common point of understanding which adapts everything, it concerns everyone and it’s beyond the limitation of just a commodity, it has adapted the concept of basic rights and needs. In such conditions, NTA trying to cyber bully the policies and regulation accordingly is not admissible, alternatively it’s decreasing its credibility and Image.
Moreover, the Nepal Police making unwanted arrest of the ISP’s employee and staff only on the basis of providing Internet connection to customers allegedly involving in call bypass and still the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPAN) after coming to an understanding with the Ministry of Information and Communication, the Home Ministry and NTA, for a collaborative solution, the problem still persisted. ISPAN then with no option started the protest program of disrupting Internet services from Sunday April 10, 2011, for one hour from 1pm to 2pm.
In one of the interviews to the well known media Nepali times Binaya Bohra, president of ISPAN said, “In the past months police have detained or tried to detain directors and employees of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) because they provided internet connections to customers who were alleged to have misused our services for the call bypass racket. This is like holding a telephone company liable for abusive calls, or holding the maker of pressure cookers liable for their misuse as pressure cooker bombs. ISPAN sat down with the authorities and explained that the actions of its customers are a third party issue and need to be dealt in the way you deal with intermediary liabilities. The government agencies and police assured us that they would not be detaining ISP owners and staff. But just the opposite has happened. The threat of unwarranted police action has created an environment of fear among ISPs and is hampering our ability to provide services and conduct business. No matter how and where we put our case and how much we cooperated with the agencies concerned, persecution against us did not stop. We simply want a safe working environment where we don’t have to worry about going to jail because one of tens of thousands of internet customers misuses the service.”
“Just as Ncell and Nepal Telecom are not being held responsible for their SIM cards being misused for illegal call bypass, ISPs should not be held responsible for internet connectivity that is misused by its customers. Why this discrimination against ISPs? Obviously the big and strong have protection and we are a soft target. We are already cooperating. We are tired of living in an environment of fear, and would prefer to surrender our licenses to NTA than continue to work in this environment,” added Bohra.
Looking at the scenario and technological boom in Nepal, Nepal is in the midst of a ticking time bomb where its position in between India and China further makes it vulnerable. In such situation when the NTA should have done collaboration with the private sector in brain storming towards preparing a mechanism to fight against the external threats, NTA is currently bullying its authority towards the industry.
The current step of monitoring account details of account holders may seem palpable highlighting security condition but alternatively it slacks the rights of privacy which is an essential factor in the defining the prospects of FREEDOM of EXPRESSION.
NTA from the past has been very ridged and orthodox toward internet and its uses in Nepal. Recently, in its attempt it had enforced the concept of using blocking software for pornographic website where few of the websites are still blocked. More or less with the effective dialogue and confrontation by the ISPAN they withheld the concept of using blocking software but some of the websites are still blacklisted.
“We are not against the blocking of pornographic website but we are against the use of filtering software because there are more conditions applied with the filtering software which needs to be understood and worked on,” said Tanka Kafle, IT Professional.
According to the press release of ISPAN on April 11 2011, quotes, “ISPAN has launched a protest program demanding a safe working environment for the Internet service industry. In this regard, the association has received a letter from the Nepal Telecommunications Authority dated 2067/12/27 addressing the association’s demands by forming a committee under the leadership of NTA’s director and committing to take concrete measures to address the issues. ISPAN welcomes NTA’s efforts and has decided to postpone its protest program to disrupt the Internet while continuing its other protest programs. However, if ISPAN demands are not met by Baishakh 8, 2068 and a concrete solution to create a safe environment for operating the Internet service industry is not provided by the concerned parties by then, we will be compelled to repeat our program to disrupt Internet services.”
Highlighting the rigidity of NTA, accessnow.org launched a campaign “Nepal Shutdown Showdown” from April 22, 2011. The campaign focuses towards Internet freedom in Nepal and addressed the issues toward Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal and Chairman Bhesh Raj Kanel of the Nepal Telecommunications Authority.
The campaign further says, “The Nepalese government is attacking ISPs that are trying to keep the internet free from censorship and police surveillance. While their employees are harassed and arrested, Nepalese ISPs are standing up for their users. Last week, the Nepalese ISPs effectively went on strike, shutting down the internet for an hour in the name of internet freedom.”
Competition is the Key to reduce prices and quality where it seems NTA is very silent. Moreover, with weak cyber policies Nepal is more prune to cyber attack and warfare where NTA is silent. No restriction in internet is the Voice of today. Freedom of Expression is not a choice its today’s Demand. Let’s be a part of the New age revolution let’s support Voice of CHANGE for internet FREEDOM in NEPAL