Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Surf's Up?

Homeland Security
Triplicane, Madras

All the cyber cafes here now have this sign, or something like it, at the front desk:

Conditions For Surfing
You Must Give:
Name & Address,
Email ID,
ID Proof (for foreigners this means Passport Number)
- By order of Commissioner of Police, Chennai

Why do we now have to not only sign in and give name (one of my many pseudonyms is Princess Sunshine - and they've never figured out that it's not a real name), email address (don't I get enough spam already without Spy Spam? so I give an old one I never use) and passport number (I just make up nine digits).
The good part is, they never cross-check (to see if any info given is fake). But what's the idea behind this? I think they're just getting us used to it. If they make us sign in everywhere, then pretty soon we won't bat an eye at having to sign in at the pharmacy, grocery or cinema. Then there will be a complete record of our movements.
Don't know if this is an India-wide law or just Tamil Nadu. But I predict the desk boys will lose interest in its enforcement and start slacking off soon. In the meantime I continue to sign in under all kinds of creative nommes des guerres such as Scarlett Hibiscus, Princess Sunshine and the Sanskrit name my guru gave me.

Last week, my NYC friend Christopher sent this, I guess from some online fireworks catalogue. I especially like the label's caution:

"Warning: Shoots Flaming Balls and Reports."


Shinu Mathew said...

It's only a state law. Because in Mumbai we freely browse and no one asked me to write down my name & address which I wouldn't ever do.
What the heck. Why they want my address and Name? Tomorrow if I get a porn-attached letter from these very cyber runners, who would I blame? Or they sign up for some cheap porn site using my id, and my inbox will be filled with porn!
Tamilnadu has this problem. over eager to control it's citizen they embark upon these draconian laws without thinking about it's consequences. Poor Kushboo is the best girl to describe how they can humiliate for talking your mind.

Sir Cumstance said...

"Shoots flaming balls..." HAHAHAHA!


kiran kumar Chava said...

I guess it is a country wide law.

In hyd also I see similar boards in some cyber cafes..

but never they forced me to sign in with all these details, they just allowed me..

Shinu Mathew said...

It's not a countrywide law per se. May be some of the states are adhering to it in the name of protecting our CULTURE. As if if they collect these details the users will refrain from accessing porn, spreading hatred etc. As Sirensongs said they don't even check this out for it's authenticity. I could give my best friend's name & adress or my foes. No one cares. And who would expect one to carry around my passport or driving licence so that they can verify it? It's a draconian measure and doesn't check any menace.

Shinu Mathew said...

And it's just the remains in our sub-conscious of the licence raj era.

byronic501 said...

dear scarlett,

We were at Sears and lost or friend Chad somewhere in the tool section. Upon going to the information counter we informed the lady that we had been seperated from our companion. "What's his name she asked?"
I said, "Chadwell Candlewickie the third.""
And she had to say it, over the store intercom. "Lost customer, Chadwell Candlewickie the third to information, I repeat, Chadwell Candlewickie the third to information."
Moments later Chad arrived...

Aadil said...

Well, it is a rule they have made recently to prevent misuse of cyber cafes as places from which terrorist activities are being committed as if they are really going to reveal their real names in the register!!! Just to keep a track and check on criminal activities like porn and cyber crimes being committed too. Don't know if it is really effective or if they have really caught anyone from these registers for committing any crimes but then Indian rules are really sometimes a bit too archaic and useless and funny too!!! As long as no one is asking you to show your passport when filling out your passport details then it is fine.


Libran Lover said...

Aadil's comment above is right. The practice of signing a register is supposed to keep a paper trail, in case there is a later investigation into some unlawful cyber activity. It is not to keep track of all your movements. I am sure the government is not thinking of keeping a register for you to sign everywhere you go.

Of course, the rule for cybercafes was passed by someone who did not or could not work out all the loopholes in its implementation. Any rule is only as strong as those who implement/enforce it, and more importantly, those who are willing to follow it.

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

"It is not to keep track of all your movements. I am sure the government is not thinking of keeping a register for you to sign everywhere you go."

As a matter of fact, LL, they do just that...to us foreigners anyway. And what the heck is "illegal cyber activity"? What's next - illegal library activity? Illegal bookstore activity (reading books they don't approve of)?

Libran Lover said...

Wow! Do they really keep track of foreigners? How do they do that? I wish they were as efficient keeping track of illegal immigrants from the neighboring terrorism-supporting countries.

I have heard of cybercafes being raided by the police cuz the customers were surfing porn. So, I suppose online porn could be illegal cyber activity? If you think that's pathetic, you must remember that not too long ago, in Chennai, police raided a hotel where young people were dancing and necking.

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

I understand now that the reason TN passed this law is because the emails that threatened bombs in Delhi last December were sent from a cybercafe in Tirunelveli. If this is the intent of the law, it's laudable, but unless they go after each and every person's session and monitor them I don't see how they are going to prevent anything. At most it will help them track culprits when it's too late, but again, terrorists are unlikely to give valid ID in the first place.

I personally applauded the Indian anti cyberporn laws for public places, because cybercafes are indeed public and I have personally experienced men sitting next to me, masturbating openly at the next booth. It's not a crime if done at home, guys. So you don't have a computer at home, it doesn't make it ok to expose yourself. I admit, I enjoyed having these guys tossed out, BTW.
About monitoring of foreigners:
It's very simple - foreigners are required to register everywhere they go at the police station - if you are planning to stay more than 2 weeks' time. If you are a visiting terrorist, I guess you don't bother. Since neighbor-terrorists are likely to resemble Indians physically, they are unlikely to be singled out for ID checks and so on. Excepting the Naxals, all the recent terrorism in India has been Muslim based. It's easy for these "visitors" to blend into the local Muslim communities seamlessly, stay with friends and never have to check into a lodge or report anywhere.

Additionally, foreigners have to fill out all manner of byzantine forms including useless information like "father's name" - maybe everyone has to give that, I don't know - to check into a hotel room and the police are notified on a daily basis of all foreigner activity in any lodge or hotel. Since no one thinks the neighbor-nation terrorists "look foreign, I wonder if they are monitored and documented as closely. My NRI friends don't get asked for ID at any museums and so on- people assume they are Indian citizens. My friends don't volunteer ID since they get the cheap price this way. And no one asks because the "look like" they "belong."
I don't know much about treatment of foreigners visiting the US, and am curious to hear if they have to register similarly and have police reports from hotels as well.