<p>Halt! Who goes there?
"Is this another step
towards a controlled
society? Are we
willing to let someone
else choose what
content is appropriate
The police in Mumbai recently announced plans to make it manda-
tory for cyber cafe owners to demand proof of identification from anyone
wanting to access the Internet from their establishments.
Did our future on the Internet just take a wrong turn? Are we perhaps
seeing the beginning of a trend that will spread to other parts of the coun-
try? Or is this just another typical knee-jerk reaction to a situation that no
one around here understands?
Consider the stated objectives. To bring under control various kinds of
cyber crimes and to curb access to pornographic content.
But what is the point of this move?
Put aside for a second the completely justified concern you might have
about your privacy being compromised. Keep in mind the fact that cyber
crime is an issue we will need to grapple with sooner rather than later. It
still isn't going to work. There are too many ways for people to get around
this requirement. At the very least it's going to be completely ineffective.
The bigger danger is that people might become uncomfortable about
using cyber cafes to access the Internet. Just at a time when Internet usage
needs to be encouraged. Both government and industry are working to
develop the potential of the Internet and cyber cafes, which provide inex-
pensive access to a large percentage of Internet users in India, have a crit-
ical role to play in this development process.
Consider also the matter of freedom of choice. Cyber cafe owners will
now have to monitor and filter Internet usage. Is this another step towards
a more controlled society? Are we willing to let someone else choose what
content is appropriate for us? Must we disclose personal information to
someone just because we need to access the Internet?
Is this freedom something that needs protecting in a democracy?
To effectively address cyber crimes, our police forces need to gain a bet