No access to pornography in cyber cafes, declare new rules

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Old 27-Apr-2011
No access to pornography in cyber cafes, declare new rules

No access to pornography in cyber cafes, declare new rules

NEW DELHI: Fresh guidelines, which are part of Information Technology (guidelines for cyber cafe) Rules 2011, will require cyber cafe owners to "tell users" not to surf websites that contain "pornographic or obscene material". Experts termed the rule arbitrary, saying that watching pornography is not an offence in India.

According to the rules notified on April 11, all cyber cafes in the country will have to register with an "agency as notified" by the government. While some of the guidelines deal with the security threat posed by "anonymous internet users", most aim to make sure that people don't use cyber cafés to access pornographic material.

Pawan Duggal, a lawyer who specializes in IT laws, said the new guidelines were arbitrary. "Watching pornography is not illegal in India," he said. "It's absurd to ask cyber café owners to tell their customers not to access pornographic material even as law allows individuals to access adult websites unless it's not child pornography. The new rules require a second look."

The new rules suggest café owners install filtering software and keep a log of all websites accessed by customers for at least one year. Café owners have also been asked not to build a cabin/cubicle with a height of more than four and half feet. In a cyber café where there are no cubicles, "owners will have to place computers with the screens facing outward" or towards open space. The move is aimed at reducing privacy a cyber café user can get.

Duggal said if implemented earnestly, the new rules will put most of cyber café owners out of business.

Internet activists termed the guidelines "unconstitutional". Pranesh Prakash, a programme manager with Centre of Internet and Society, said the rules will violate privacy and will hamper internet users' ability to freely express themselves.

The new rules make it mandatory for user to carry an identity card. Cyber café owners have been asked to give user logs to the "registration agency" every month as well keep these records along with the log of websites accessed at the cyber café safe for a period of one year. A few café owners said that technically, it would be a daunting task to keep a record of every website accessed using their computers for a year.

While minors, if carrying identity cards have been permitted to use computers in a cyber café, they won't be allowed inside cubicles if not accompanied by guardians or parents. There is also provision of photographing cyber café users using a webcam or other device. The photographs will have to be authenticated by the user. Prakash said that photographing users raises serious privacy questions, especially in the case of children.

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