Deconstructing Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 – “Chapter III Establishment of Investigation and Prosecution Agency and Procedural Powers for Investigation” – Part 2

…continued to part I

8. Section 29 on Page 8 states:

29. Retention of traffic data: (1) A service provider shall, within its existing or required technical capability, retain its traffic data for a minimum period of one year or such period as the Authority may notify from time to time and provide that data to the investigation agency or the authorized officer whenever so required.

(2) The service providers shall retain the traffic data under sub-section (1) by fulfilling all requirements of data retention and its originality as provided under Section 5 and 6 of Electronic Transaction Ordinance, 2002 (LI of 2002).

(3) Any person who contravenes the provisions of this section shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or with fine up to five hundred thousand rupees or with both.

Problem:

The Act defines a ‘service provider’ and ‘traffic data’ as follows:

(aa) “service provider” includes a person who:

(i) act as a service provider in relation to sending, receiving, storing, processing or distribution of any electronic communication or the provision of other services in relation to electronic communication through an information system;

(ii) owns, possesses, operates, manages or controls a public switched network or provides telecommunication services;

(iii) processes or stores data on behalf of such electronic communication service or users of such service; or

(iv) provides premises from where or facilities through which the  public in general may access an information system and the internet such as cyber cafes;

(cc) “traffic data” includes data relating to a communication indicating its origin, destination, route, time, size, duration or type of service;

According to this act all of following will be considered as internet service providers:

1. Hotels, motels, restaurants, coffee-shops etc.

2. Shopping malls, markets, shops, petrol stations  (if they provided an active WiFi connection to consumers)

3. Universities,colleges and all other educational institutes providing active WiFi access to students and/or visitors.

4. Pretty much another established with a active public WiFi connection.

All of above in accordance with this Act, will be required to store one year of ‘traffic data’ (as defined in the Act). In case they are not technically capable of doing so in the present infrastructure, they’ll be required to acquire such capacity. Those who don’t comply and are unable to provide the data if and when required can be jailed up to 6 months.

The IT Minister has on numerous occasions guaranteed that the said law will be made business friendly – a claim which is hardly substantiated with the Section 29 of the Act.

9. Section 34 Page 9 states: 

34. Power to manage intelligence and issue directions for removal or blocking of access of any intelligence through any information system: (1) The Authority is empowered to manage intelligence and issue directions for removal or blocking of access of any intelligence through any information system.

The Authority or any officer authorized by it in this behalf may direct any service provider, to remove any intelligence or block access to such intelligence, if it considers it necessary in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defense of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court or commission of or incitement to an offence under this Act.

(2) The Authority may prescribe rules for adoption of standards and procedure to manage intelligence, block access and entertain complaints.

(3) Until such procedure and standards are prescribed, the Authority shall exercise its powers under this Act or any other law for the time being in force in accordance with the directions issued by the Federal Government not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act.

Problem:

The Inter-Ministerial Committee For Web Evaluation was constituted by then Prime Minister of Pakistan in 2006 – mandated to evaluate and restrict offensive online content the committee was headed by the Secretary of IT and had representation of various Ministries, entities and agencies. Bolo Bhi, a civil society organization recently challenged the legality of IMC under Constitution of Pakistan in Islamabad High Court – as a result of which the Committee was restrained from blocking websites until the final decision of the case.

Disbanding IMC is a step towards securing open access to Internet in Pakistan – but not for long. Pakistan Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 if passed in its current form will authorize the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to block access to online content. Furthermore, it’ll allow PTA to designate an individual officer to make decisions regarding the blocking of online content – the step is an extreme form of centralized censorship and be directly used to curb citizen’s right to free expression.

Blog is written by Media Matters for Democracy

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