Belarus orders internet providers to collect personal user data

Minsk/Moscow - Belarus' authoritarian government Monday ordered even tighter online controls, ordering internet providers to collect personal data and profiles of their users, according to the independent Belarusian news agency Belapan. The order takes effect on July 1.

President Aleksander Lukashenko signed the order, saying the move was necessary in the "fight against everything illegal and to improve the security of this country and its citizens."

Lukashenko, whom human-rights activists call Europe's last dictator, in January authorized the national Intelligence Analysis Centre, an agency directly subordinate to his office, to break into practically any internet traffic moving to, from or within Belarus. No court orders would be needed.

Lukashenko cited a need to combat crime.

The latest move Monday dramatically widened the already strict government controls over communications in the country.

Opposition activists fear that Lukashenko's latest moves are designed to shut them out from any media access as the country heads into elections next year. The moves leave web users few remaining means of communication not monitored by the state.

After last month's order, Reporters Without Borders, which monitors press freedom worldwide, issued a statement of protest, saying the decree once effective would make Belarus "fall to the level of North Korea and China ... as an 'enemy of the internet.'"

In 2006 and 2009, opposition communications by e-mail, Skype, and SMS played key roles in organizing massive anti-government protests in Belarus.


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