Govt defends data access law change

Govt defends data access law change

Court order needed to remove content

Uttama Savanayana, Minister of Information and Communications Technology, seen here Software Expo Asia last January, promised Monday the regime will always get a court order before intercepting internet traffic. (Photo by Kajornlert Hoksoonheng)
Uttama Savanayana, Minister of Information and Communications Technology, seen here Software Expo Asia last January, promised Monday the regime will always get a court order before intercepting internet traffic. (Photo by Kajornlert Hoksoonheng)

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) minister Uttama Savanayana denies claims that a draft amendment to the Computer Crime Act violates internet users' privacy.

Mr Uttama responded Monday to concerns raised by rights activists that his ministry is trying to gain access to users' encrypted data.

"The ICT Ministry cannot block or remove online content without a court order," he told the Bangkok Post, adding the ICT also does not intend to look at or remove content not previously declared to be illegal by a court.

Mr Uttama explained the steps for removing illegal content.

A complaint is first examined by a data filtering committee, established under Section 20 of the draft amendment.

If the committee believes the content could be illegal, it will forward the complaint to the ICT minister for further review.

Similarly, the ICT minister will forward evidence to a court, for information or data he believes could be in violation of the law.

After the court has given a ruling, if the content was ruled to be illegal, the ICT ministry may issue an order for the data to be blocked or removed in a specific timeframe, Mr Uttama said.

Such a procedure is applied only to data found to be illegal by the courts, he insisted.

According to the minister, the ICT ministry also does not block or remove content itself, but will ask internet service providers or platforms to do so.

He argued the mention of Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology in the leaked document only serves as an indicator to service providers.

"They must delete or block access to content which breaches the law no matter what, and we are only making this requirement clearer," he claimed.

The bill, which passed its first hearing at the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and is currently being considered by a special committee ahead of the two remaining readings, could permit the Information and Communications Technology Ministry (ICT) to gain access to encrypted information online, said Arthit Suriyawongkul, coordinator of the Thai Netizen Network, an internet freedom advocacy group.

The draft amendment to the Computer Crime Act will modernise a law in use since 1992, which is not well suited to the current context, Mr Uttama added.

However, since Section 15 of the law punished service providers or platforms which tolerate wrongdoing for cooperating with the culprits, operators have no choice but to comply with authorities.

Today, complaints regarding potentially illegal content or data are common, Mr Uttama said. The bill will provide clearer guidelines for authorities, and standardised steps on how to proceed. "This will reduce the state agents' power in interpreting which content should be removed or blocked," he said.


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