Thailand government is being criticized for its new law that will make it compulsory for coffee shops to monitor and collect data from the consumers using their WiFi.
The digital economy and society ministry of Thailand demands that cafes and coffee shops maintain at least 90 days’ worth of records of their customers’ internet activities. The regulation is to enable authorities to better assess which internet users can be regarded as lawbreakers.
Buddhipongse Punnakanta, the digital economy and society minister, claims that the information gathered will be utilized by the country’s “fake news center”, which was established two months ago in an effort to observe inaccurate and unsuitable reports.
Shop keepers aren’t happy with the new rule
Many cafe owners have spoken out against the new law as it would inevitably create additional costs to acquire and run servers dedicated to data gathering. It will also create more hassle for customers who would now need to produce personal details if they want to connect to the shop’s WiFi. The ministry responded by proposing that the shop owners should manage paper records if they can’t afford to operate servers for data collection.
The introduction of this new regulation comes at a time shortly after democracy activist Karn Pongpraphapan (25) was detained for apparently offending the monarchy on social media. A Facebook post last week from Pongpraphapan mentioned the poor outcomes of previous European monarchs, however, the activist didn’t refer directly to the Thai royal family.
Many feel that this data collection legislation might additionally be used to suppress political opposition and freedom of speech.
Arthit Suriyawongkul is a coordinator for the non-profit NGO network, Thai Netizen, which supports digital rights and civil liberties. He says that activists are sure to strive for an amendment to the invasive law.
“Does the government really think they can catch bad people with this?”, said Suriyawongkul. “Or is it just a way to threaten people with the knowledge that they are being watched?”.