Military Junta Reportedly Set To Demand Access To Myanmar Citizens’ Online Communications And Personal Data

(Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)

Brent Foster Contributor
Font Size:

The new military regime in Myanmar is close to ceding widespread control of data access along with online content and service to the telecommunications ministry under their control, according to Nikkei Asia.

Legislation to that effect would allow government entities access to personal information while designating a place for online service providers to store consumer data, according to Nikkei Asia, who sourced the document from an industry insider. The bill was originally drafted under the previous government with Aung San Suu Kyi at the helm.

The legislation would include requirements for providers to “prevent, remove, destroy and cease” content that can spark hate and harm unity, stability, or peace along with any “written or verbal statements” against the law in “a timely manner,” according to Nikkei Asia.

The state would also be able to shut down online services through power vested in the legislation, which ostensibly aims to bolster the digital economy in Myanmar, while guarding personal data against cybercrime for the sake of national peace and sovereignty, according to Nikkei Asia.

“We are aware of the draft cybersecurity bill ad are in the process of reviewing it,” said a spokesperson for Telenor, a Norwegian telecom company first licensed in Myanmar under Thein Sein in the 2010s, according to Nikkei Asia.

A statement signed by civil society groups describes the purpose of the legislation as “to oppress those who are against its rule, and to restrict the mobilization and momentum of online resistance.”

“We strongly condemn this action by the current military regime in accordance with our democratic principles,” the statement reads, according to Nikkei Asia.

Myanmar was not initially known for strong internet freedom, but Oliver Spencer, legal counsel to Free Expression Myanmar, describes the new legislation as “significantly worse.”

The legislation, Spencer argues, “gives the military even more power to surveil and control the internet, including a provision that Myanmar user data must be stored at a place designated by the military, and giving the military full and unfettered access,” according to Nikkei Asia.

An investor in the digital services industry in Myanmar says the “country will have a serious brain drain issue” due to limits on “freedom of speech and access to the internet” along with foreign investment, “businesses and the public will suffer,” according to Nikkei Asia. (RELATED: Myanmar Blocks Facebook Access After Coup)