We are friends: Thailand and US on Privacy

Privacy International, London-based human rights group, recently released a new VERY comprehensive report on privacy status around the world. Thailand is ranked 31st following closely the United States (30th) on a ranking of 37 countries.

The study ranks countries on various privacy-related issues. These include whether they have a written constitution with specific mention of privacy, the use of identity cards and biometrics, electronic surveillance including closed-circuit TV cameras, interception of communication, access of law-enforcement agencies to private data, surveillance of travel and financial transactions, and global leadership in promoting privacy. [from globeandmail.com]

Here is a highlight part on Thailand.

Wiretapping is prevalent throughout the country. Police recently asked the government to enact a law permitting warrantless, judicially unsupervised wiretaps and searches. The opposition condemned this attempt to override civil liberties and human rights, and the idea did not develop.

Political bugging is no less common. Politicians and human rights activists accused a political party of wiretapping political opponents and journalists.

The government is currently implementing a system of national ID smart cards. It plans to integrate them into an e-government campaign, which would provide access to most of its services through the Internet. Several human rights and privacy advocates criticized the government for pushing an intrusive identification system while the country still lacks a data protection law.

In the country report (page. 694-699), which is more comprehensive, they referred to section 34, 37, and 58 in the 1997 constitution which was just revoked. [Note: Poor thing… They just said it is a “new” constitution in the report. Well, we will get a new one soon.] Also they talk about Official Information Act (OIA) as a frame of data protection and freedom of information. In the Privacy Case Law section, they raise one interesting case of conflict of interests…

In one case, a girl who failed the Entrance examination to a state-run school requested the test scores of herself and other students who were accepted. In a series of decisions by the OIC, the IDT, and even the civil and supreme courts, the right of access to test scores was upheld and enforced. This decision was made amidst the protests and countersuit of parents of other students, who claimed that their privacy rights were
violated by the disclosure of their test scores; the courts held that the results of a “public competition were not personal information” and thus unprotected. (p. 696)

The other sections are already mentioned in the highlighted, including wiretapping and surveillance (see also my earlier post – Do we have a global censorship? I guess so now…), the registration of pre-paid cellphone, and smart national ID cards.

From my personal observation, privacy is kind of opt-out interest in Thailand. No many Thai seems to really care about this much, especially those from grassroots level. [Note: A new Thai government rules a substitutive term apparently for brainwashing. They are now using “glassroots“. Sorry, LOL is not allowed.] I guess this might not imply just only in Thailand, because even on Slashdot, there are still some debates on this aspect as well.

[extended from Slashdot]


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