Despite being stuck in quarantine because of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many people have started discussing their traveling plans for when the pandemic ends. After all, who’s not craving the feeling of fresh air right about now?
One destination I’ve heard people talk about is Thailand, a beautiful country rich in cultural history. There are only so many countries that match the beauty of Thailand. However, while many people discuss the beauties of Thailand, I’ve heard little about the recent cybersecurity controversies affecting the country.
The controversy I’m referencing is the cybersecurity bill passed early last year. What does it do, what controversies have it kicked off, and why is it important to know about?
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The 2019 Cybersecurity Bill
Early last year, the government of Thailand passed a major cybersecurity bill that, in simple terms, allows the government/monarchy to track and log the data of anyone in the country. Think of it as Thailand’s version of the United States’ Patriot Act.
The reasoning given by the Thai government is that the bill allows them to track down cybercriminals more easily. And while that reasoning sounds reasonable, the actual content of the bill suggests far worse intentions.
See, the actual content of the bill is pretty light, meaning that the wording of the bill is vague. Because of the vague wording, it’s unclear what powers the Thai government can use, or what they’re allowed to track.
Sure, the bill may aid in tracking down cybercriminals and putting an end to their crimes, but at what cost? The cost of everyone’s privacy?
The vague wording and seemingly-unrestricted powers the bill has granted to the Thai government have many citizens (rightfully) worried.
To be fair to Thailand, they have enacted privacy-friendly laws too, including the Personal Data Protection law passed last year, which forces businesses to adhere to GDPR-like restrictions. However, their passing of new laws doesn’t hide the fact that they’re passing potentially-harmful laws.
Protecting Yourself From the New Bill
It’s not ideal that we must take it upon ourselves to keep our privacy intact, but the new bill does enough to force our hand. Whether you’re a citizen or a tourist, you’d be better off taking the necessary precautions needed to protect you and your identity.
My first recommendation for you is to download a VPN to any device you use often. A VPN encrypts your data and hides your geographical location, two things that will inhibit the government’s ability to track your data and log it into their systems.
If you’re a tourist, you’ll also have the luxury of refraining from accessing any sensitive information during your brief visit to the country. What a government would do with your browsing history—I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that the less information they have on you, the less power they hold over you.
Also, refrain from criticizing the government or monarchy. Whether you’re a citizen or a tourist, you risk severe jail time for so much as a joke towards the current government. That bill has been in effect since 2014, and many people have suffered because of it.
There seems to be a recent, unfortunate trend of countries passing strict and invasive cybersecurity bills—Thailand is just the latest country to do it. However, just because Thailand passed an invasive cybersecurity bill doesn’t mean you can’t visit the country; it just means you need to take the necessary precautions unless you don’t mind your data being tracked and logged.
Thailand, while a beautiful country, lacks the proper digital freedoms that other countries allow. Hopefully, we’ll see this change in the next few years, though the changes probably won’t come soon or as quickly as we’d like.