Sun, Jan 15, 2012
Iran: “Big brother” comes to internet cafés, “national internet network” to be launched soon
This article was originally published in the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center’ bulletin on Iran, number 150.
Last week the cyber police released new regulations imposing severe restrictions on Iran’s internet cafés. According to the authorities, the regulations are designed to guarantee the safety of internet café users, minimize the dangers involved in their activity, and protect the legal operation of these establishments. A special announcement sent by the cyber police to internet café owners requires them to take the necessary measures to implement the new restrictions within 15 days of their publication date.
The new restrictions
Among other things, the new regulations require (as published in Asr-e Iran, January 3, 2012):
- Internet cafés to prominently display their operation licenses where they can be easily seen;
- Internet cafés can only provide web surfing services through licensed internet providers rather than providers that offer satellite-based internet access;
- Selling software to clients and providing print and computer game installation services is forbidden;
- Internet café operators must have no criminal records, be married and at least 25 years old;
- Internet cafés have to record their customers’ personal data as it appears on their official identification, including first and last name, father’s name, ID number, phone number, and zip code;
- They must keep records of each customer’s internet access time, IP address, and history of viewed webpages for the past six months;
- The use of technology and unblocking software to provide access to blocked websites is strictly forbidden;
- Customers’ files can only be sent by members of the internet café staff and after making sure that the files contain no viruses;
- At the end of each business day the managers are required to take the necessary measures to make sure no viruses have been installed on the computers;
- Internet cafés must be equipped with CCTV cameras to constantly monitor activities in the establishment and keep the video recordings for six months;
- Managers must provide their clients with detailed information on computer crimes defined by law and examples of content considered prohibited by law;
- Only one customer can use a particular computer at the same time unless they require another person’s assistance for work purposes.
The new regulations are another stage in the restrictions imposed by the authorities on the use of internet cafés. This past November the Tehran police conducted an operation to shut down illegally-operating internet cafés.
Meanwhile, the Iranian media reported that in the next several weeks the authorities will complete preparations for the launch of a separate, closed internal internet network, which will be cut off from its global counterpart. Telecommunications Minister Reza Taqipour said this week that the first stage in the implementation of the project will be carried out in the beginning of the next Iranian year (which starts on March 20) and that 25 of Iran’s 31 provinces are ready for this stage of the project. He noted that the national intranet isn’t supposed to replace the global internet network, but that since most Iranian communications do not require access to the global network, they will be routed through the internal network (IRNA, January 8).
The separate national internet is considered one of the government projects designed to provide the regime with greater ability to control and monitor internet traffic, which it perceives as a major scene of activity used by Iran’s domestic and foreign enemies. According to authorities, however, the launch of the internal network will make it possible to significantly decrease the cost of web surfing services and increase access speed.