I was a tad surprised to read that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become one of the first countries/regions in the world to mandate Internet cafes to keep confirmed records of Internet users.
Apparently, the main ISP in the country, Etisalat, now has a new policy of recording the IDs of all Internet cafe users, although it has confirmed it will not keep track of every Web page that surfers log on to.
By the end of this month, all Net cafes in the UAE will be keeping records of people who use the Internet.
According to Etisalat, Net surfers will have to show photographic identification before they can use the Internet and details of when they logged in and logged out will be kept.
Police will then have access to ISP records of access to illegal content, including terrorist and paedophile data. If they require confirmation of who's surfing to such sites and trace the session back to a Net cafe, then the relevant data can be easily accessed.
According to Abdullah Hashim, senior manager for Etisalat's Internet operations, most illegal Internet activity in the region is carried out at Internet cafes, so it is important to know who was using the,
"The Internet cafe is where people go if they want to do bad things like hacking or sending threatening e-mails. All over the world, most cybercrimes is done from public places," he explained.
I must confess that I was concerned on a personal privacy level when I heard about Etisalat's plans, but the world has, unfortunately, changed a lot since the events of 9/11, and such moves are very necessary.
How long, I wonder, before the UK implements a similar directive...