Thursday, September 13, 2012

ECB to Empower Bhutanese ISPs to Monitor their Users’ On-Line Activities

If recent Kuensel reports are to be believed, indications are that the Election Commission of Bhutan is toying with some dangerous ideas that are likely to result in the infringement of our individual freedom and privacy. The most recent Kuensel report says as follows:

"The draft social media rules and regulations now require ISPs to implement a “necessary system to monitor and detect cases of violation of the electoral laws through the social media”.  It also requires ISPs to implement a system that can “lawfully intercept” and provide “necessary information on the identity of a social media abuser using its services”. In case of violations on the contents of a website, ECB can order ISPs to block that particular website".

I don’t know if they are empowered to legislate laws that infringe on the individual rights and privacy of the Bhutanese people and I don’t even know if the above has become law. I visited their website and tried to read the new rules and regulations being proposed. I don’t see it posted on the website.

But for now, I am concerned that the ECB thinks they have the right to grant sweeping powers to the ISPs to monitor the activities of the their users. The other concern is whether the ECB can actually ORDER the ISPs to block particular websites. Under what authority or law does the ECB have those powers?

Where do I find information on the matter? Please help me understand this matter. I sense a real danger here.


  1. This social media policy is still in its draft phase.

    The ECB is in the right direction but their approach is not practical or practicable. They cannot have these powers, nor can they empower ISPs to snoop on user communications.

    Another approach, a more practical one, would be for the ECB to establish a cell for logging complaints or information from other users & acting on that with the help of the ISPs. They can do some monitoring of their own, but should not get into "policing" the web.

    Nonetheless it is a complex and a thorny issue. At this intersection of technology, privacy, government policies and election rules, there is no simple objective solution. ECB will have to think much more broadly and creatively.

  2. Hi Anuj

    Thanks for the comment.

    I am amazed that the Bhutanese media is so complacent about this dangerous rule being proposed. That, I suppose, is the Bhutanese mentality. They kick up a huge ruckus on issues that no longer matter … and when it comes to important issues, they are unable to grasp the implications of what it entails.

    I understand that the ECB is trying to do something useful - there is no fault in their intensions. But the means they employ is dangerous and unacceptable. No doubt given the muck that is being spread by some irresponsible people in the Internet forums is something that we need to check. But snooping is not the answer. Giving ISPs the monitoring authority is not the answer.

    What the ECB is trying to do is infringe on the most fundamental rights of the people. For an organization that has been established to regulate healthy growth and functioning of democracy, what they propose is totally undemocratic. And they exceed their mandate and their powers.