Thai Government Forcing Cafes to Monitor and Store Browsing Data of Customers

A new Thai law will force café owners to track and store the browsing data of customers who use their WiFi for at least 90 days.

The announcement has sparked outrage online with opponents of the move saying it will encroach on the free speech and privacy of citizens.

Thai authorities claim that the regulation is necessary to monitor fake news and violations of Thai law under the country’s Computer Crimes Act.

According to the digital economy and society ministry, the data gathered from the cafes will be used by Thailand’s recently opened “fake news center”, which was created to crack down on “false and inappropriate” being circulated online.

Free speech activists state though that the new law and fake news center will be used as a way to stifle political dissent on the internet and social media, citing previous uses of the Computer Crimes Act to go after dissenters who speak out against the current political order in Thailand.

This was recently highlighted by the arrest of pro-democracy activist Karn Pongpraphapan, who the government claims insulted the monarchy online for sharing a Facebook post about the fall of European monarchies in the past.

On top of that, café owners will now have to deal with the added operating costs of paying for enough server space to store the data.

The new regulation placed on café owners also comes in the wake of a report that places Thailand as the fifth-worst country (of 47 countries examined) when it comes to privacy protection.

The study, carried out by Comparitech, specifically docked Thailand for the fact that the digital economy and society ministry officials can obtain documents and computer data from service providers without a warrant.

They did note, however, that Thailand’s Personal Data Protection Act passed earlier this year and that comes into effect soon might alleviate some concerns of privacy advocates.

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