Pakistan govt approaching Canadian firm to install a ‘web monitoring system’ raises eyebrows
The news has raised concerns about freedom of expression and censorship in Pakistan.
Coda Story, a known global platform to share news regarding the digital crisis, has revealed a deal between the Pakistani government and a controversial Canadian firm, Sandvine for internet monitoring.
According to the reports, Pakistan is moving to install a “web monitoring system.”. Sandvine will be providing instruments for complete internet surveillance where all incoming and outgoing traffic from Pakistan will be monitored using a method called Deep Packet Inspection.
According to the agreement available with Coda, a contract worth $18.5 million was signed in December 2018. Sandvine will provide a system to monitor communications, measure and record traffic call data on behalf of PTA, Pakistan’s national telecommunications regulator.
The contract has been signed by a number of parties including Inbox Business Technologies Ltd, a Pakistani firm which is also a local partner for Sandvine and Pakistan Telecommunication Company for “procurement of hardware, software, and provision of related services for the web monitoring system.”
What is DPI (Deep Packet Inspection)
DPI is a system used by authoritarian governments to put people’s online activity unless strict surveillance. DPI is “a type of data processing that looks in detail at the contents of the data being sent and re-routes it accordingly.”
The agreement has raised fears regarding censorship, control, and freedom in Pakistan. Speaking to Coda Story, co-founder of Media Matters For Democracy, Asad Baig, said that he is afraid the new system “will give full autonomy to [the Pakistan Telecom Authority] to do what they please with digital content without due process, and as is evident from their history of content regulation, that will not bode well for anyone.”
“With a web monitoring system, the state will have the ability to surveil citizens’ digital activity almost constantly,” Baig added.
Simply knowing that a monitoring system is in place can have a chilling effect on journalists, activists and political dissidents who are increasingly paranoid about state surveillance for speaking up online.
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