Pakistan has acquired the services of Canada-based company Sandvine to help it build a nationwide web monitoring system, the Pakistan-based news website Coda has reported.
The agreement raises serious concerns about privacy and civil liberties, as the company is expected to provide equipment for monitoring and analysing all incoming and outgoing internet traffic from Pakistan.
Coda claims it has a copy of the agreement, signed for $18.5 million and dated 12 December, 2018, which states that the web monitoring system will use Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to monitor communications, measure and record traffic and call data on behalf of the country’s national telecommunications regulator, the Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA).
As per the report, the contract was signed by a number of parties, including Pakistan firm Inbox Business Technologies Ltd, which is acting as a local partner for Sandvine and Pakistan Telecommunication Company for “procurement of hardware, software and provision of related services for web monitoring system.”
Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Azam Khan Swati told the Senate earlier the PTA had asked Inbox Business Technologies and Sandvine Inc to provide equipment for monitoring grey traffic. At the same time, Khan maintained PTA was not involved with either of the companies and no public funds had been spent on the project.
However, according to the Coda report, a March 2018 tender available on the PTA’s website invited bids for the web monitoring system (WMS) “at national level, for identifying and blocking access to any on-line content classified as unlawful under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016”.
The PTA maintains that grey traffic is a crime and its efforts to monitor it through a technical solution are in accordance with the law and the joint efforts of all stakeholders.