INTERNET SURVEILLANCE

By SARAH KHAN

According to the basic feature of the democracy, freedom of political expression, freedom of speech and freedom of press are considered basic rights which allows every individual to express his opinion independently, hence we have diversity of views and opinions in a democratic system just like Milton stated in this context as:
“When complaints are freely heard, deeply considered, and speedily reformed, then is the utmost bound of civil liberty attained, that wise men look for.”—Milton
But as far as Pakistan is concerned, which is a democratic country; it is adopting the modes and manners of dictatorship. The evidence for this fact is a report on internet surveillance called freedom on the net 2013, conducted by the Digital Rights Foundation Pakistan and Freedom House assessed freedom of communication in computer environment in 60 countries. Pakistan scored 67 out of hundred and received a status of “not free” while Iceland topped the position with a score of six.
It seems that there is an increase in spying activities by government authorities particularly intelligence agencies. Also the uploading of anti-Islam movie trailer on YouTube last year and the Fair Trial Act which authorizes the state to intercept private communication in order to track suspected terrorists seem to have threatened perfect storm of censorship and moral policing by government authorities. Not only ban against YouTube but simultaneously some other sites are also blocked on grounds of immorality.
PTA is in the process of acquiring more advanced surveillance software to spy more accurately by tracking flow of data across the internet and search personal chats and email accounts thoroughly. Although this invasive category of software is ostensibly for the purpose of aiding terrorism investigations but it could also allow elimination of views on politics, religion and morality etc that is unacceptable according to the basic rights of freedom of expression. The right to freedom of speech in Pakistan is already restricted due to laws for keeping careful watch for possible danger as in blasphemy. The freedom of press is encountering countless number of problems many of which can be traced to intolerance hence government should support the freedom of expression.
As far as the recent news related to this topic is concerned the government officials have been offended by their colleagues after getting personal information and communication details from intelligence officers who were indulged in misuse of their authority. This was the top story a few days earlier and it is seriously alarming.