"Respect for confidentiality of personal information obtained from Internet service providers (ISPs) or through e-mail messages must be an unshakeable principal of any democratic society," it said. "New information technology allows greater monitoring of personal messages and the Bangladesh government must respect the privacy of its citizens and their right to communicate freely."
The Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has reportedly drafted amendments to the 2001 law at the request of the intelligence agencies and the law ministry which have cited reasons of national security and the need to fight terrorism.
The intelligence agencies want access to the subscribers’ database of ISPs and to use in court cases material gathered through currently-illegal interception of private e-mail. One academic told The Daily Star newspaper that such interception "could be used as a weapon to blackmail people."
The intelligence agencies also want to amend section 30 of the Telecommunications Act (concerning privacy) to read (addition in italics): "...to ensure protection of the privacy of telecommunications subject to the national security laws." This kind of general clause would allow intelligence officials disturbingly greater scope to intervene.
Some freedom of expression activists say they fear the amendments would turn the country into a "police state." The changes also seem to contradict the 2001 Act’s main purpose of setting up an independent commission (the BTRC) to regulate telecommunications. The way now seems open to transfer the BTRC’s powers back to the telecommunications ministry.
Akhteruzzaman Manju, president of the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA), warned in The Daily Star that the Act could only be amended with the permission of the International Telecommunications Union and after debate in parliament.