INTERNATIONAL DESK: Pakistani netizens are expressing fear of state surveillance after the country’s telecom authority announced that it would crack down on virtual private networks (VPNs), a means by which personal data remains hidden or encrypted, media reports said.
A statement on the website of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) read that using any mode of communication including a VPN is a violation of PTA regulations, reported The Express Tribune.
After the announcement of the VPN crackdown, netizens are rattled. The PTA has simplified the process of registration, the notification read adding that now public and private sector organisations, foreign missions and freelancers, who wish to use a VPN for their legitimate purposes, must register it by using an online application by October 31, 2022, to avoid disruption.
An application for a VPN registration would only be accepted through the mentioned online link, it read and noted that the applications communicated through any other means shall not be accepted.
Reacting to the VPN crackdown, the information communication technology analyst Waqas Ghani Kukaswadia said, “The news of blocking VPNs has caused unrest among netizens and is being viewed as a means to curb freedom of internet users.”
It is worth noting that many internet users use VPN services while accessing WiFi in public places to ensure privacy and safety. “VPNs are present on Google Play Store and are mostly used to access banned websites or dark webs,” cyber security expert and researcher Etizaz Mohsin told The Express Tribune.
Human rights activists are raising voices against the move, saying why the government needs to take such steps that might in turn infringe upon the people’s basic rights of freedom of thought, freedom of speech, etc.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has earlier expressed concerns over attempts to smother freedom of expression and opinion in the country. Religious and sectarian minorities also suffer systematic discrimination and violence in Pakistan
Pakistan is seeing a spike in attacks on the media which has highlighted the looming threat to fundamental freedoms in the country. According to the World Press Freedom Index 2022 report, Pakistan has slipped by 12 points in the index, from a rank of 145th in 2021 to 157th in 2022. (ANI)
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