Protests Myanmar Netblocksfingasengadget – The military coup in Myanmar has seen a dramatic decrease in connectivity without internet access. NetBlocks, an internet observatory group, has said that the country’s internet connectivity fell to 16% of ordinary levels.
Media sources have been censored and social media is also under observation. The government claims it is blocking ‘fake information’ being spread on the networks which could undermine public order or security.
“The government claims that it is blocking fake information being spread on the networks which could undermine public order or security. However, the real reason is to prevent any voices from opposing the junta,” said NetBlocks.
Internet access has fallen by 31% in Yangon , 26% in Naypyidaw and 14% in Rangoon, according to data provided by the group. The country ranks at 124th out of 190 countries in terms of connectivity.
The government has yet to ban the internet altogether. However, the situation has worsened in comparison to previous bans during similar scenarios. During the 2007 anti-junta protests, the connectivity was down by 20%.
Despite this, social media users have been prolific in sharing updates and images of violence over Facebook and Twitter. The pages have been created using pseudonyms and a persistent effort to get messages out despite the censorship imposed by authorities.
The government has also banned social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. However, the junta has not been able to block the sites which have millions of users across the world.
The government claims it is blocking fake information being spread on the networks which could undermine public order or security. However, the real reason is to prevent any voices from opposing the junta.
The Human Rights Foundation has said that at least 12 people were killed in the military coup and hundreds were injured. Military forces have been accused of opening fire on protesters in broad day light. The government has also blocked foreign observers including UN and media access while they prevent journalists from reporting freely on the situation.
Myanmar’s Minister of Information has just announced that the country will have a digital identity card for all citizens by 2017. The government is in possession of the data collected from the biometrics which include photographs, fingerprints and iris scans.
Further, Myanmar will introduce facial recognition technology to monitor people’s movements and activities. The move will allow authorities to track any secret or illicit movement in the country.
Without a digital identity card, Myanmar citizens will not be able to travel internationally or access the banking and financial sectors. Sensitive personal data is at risk of being breached by bad actors if the system is not secure. If your identity details are stolen, then it means you have a high chance of getting into fraud or theft related crimes.
There is no guarantee that the digital identity card will be secure. There is also a probability that it will be misused by the government to spy on its citizens. The facial recognition technology will be used to profile citizens without their consent and in complete violation of privacy.
The Myanmar residents have been protesting against the military coup since November 12th 2016. The country’s Chief of Staff Min Aung Hlaing has assured protesters that the government will restore democratic rule as soon as possible. NetBlocks said that the internet will return to normalcy once the military forces step down.
NetBlocks.org is a collaboration of seven internet transparency advocates from around the world. The group monitors internet connectivity, blocks and outages in countries where it is prohibited or restricted. The team aims to raise awareness about digital rights and help citizens exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly online.