Line spying 'won't breach privacy'

The government has no policy to infringe on people's privacy, deputy government spokeswoman Sunisa Lertpakawat said on Wednesday, as the government attempted to allay fears of harsh censorship monitoring of comments on social network pages.

Deputy government spokeswoman Sunisa Lertpakawat (Photo by Jetjaras na Ranong)

The Electronic Transaction Development Agency, which played a major part in writing the law on computer crime, has warned any attempt by police to monitor comments on social media like Line or Facebook, and act on it, would be illegal.

Critics said tracing Line application users' messages would be a breach of privacy and in violation of the law.

Ms Sunisa said the government  has no plans to attack its political opponents by keeping tabs on their Line messages.

"It's just not possible that the government is instructing state officials to act wrongfully, especially by violating the rights of others.

"We're duty bound to safeguard people's freedom, not to control or obstruct it," the deputy spokeswoman said.

Ms Sunisa said criminals have been using the internet and the social media to further their own interests, and many countries are looking to measures to tackle this problem and catch up with new technologies.

"I ask society to understand the reason behind this move by  officials, because they will have to listen to the people's opinions in the end," Ms Sunisa said.

Pol Maj Gen Pisit Pao-in, commander of the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD), insisted on Wednesday that he had spoken with people working at Line Corporation and that the chat service provider was willing to cooperate with Thai authorities.

On Tuesday, Line announced that it had not received an official request for message tracing from the Thai police, and said it does not collect or store any users' information or messages, as it protects users' privacy.

Pol Maj Gen Pisit said Line made the announcement because it wanted to protect its business and did not want its customers to be critical.

Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew (Photo by Surapol Promsaka na Sakolnakorn)

National police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew said he had talked with TCSD officials about monitoring people's Line messages.

He said the principle is that police must not infringe on people's privacy. The focus is on national security. Police will not trace the chat logs of all Line users, but will check on certain individuals, case by case.

"Police also use Line to communicate. People are entitled to use the app and we'll have to see whether the law authorises us to make such inspections," Pol Gen Adul said.

"If we monitor some individuals, it must be done within the legal framework."

Line is a smartphone and tablet application allowing users to make free voice calls and send free electronic mail and instant messages.

As of July 21, up to 15 million users in Thailand had signed for the Line service.

Thailand is the world's third largest Line user, after Japan and Taiwan. The app has reached 200 million users worldwide.

Related search: censorship, social networks, government monitoring

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