Uzbekistan: Big Brother’s Newest Eye – In Internet Cafes
Authorities in Uzbekistan are taking their paranoia about the power of the Internet the next logical step, installing video cameras in private Internet cafes and requiring café owners to store detailed records of the websites customers visit.
All this is to "ensure the security of customers,” the State Committee for Telecommunications and Information Technologies said about the new rules, which came into force March 31.
The new regulations also ban Internet cafes from the basements of multi-story buildings. Since many Internet cafes are currently located in basements, this provision will significantly cut their numbers, forcing many to close immediately, thus curbing access to the Internet.
Reporters Without Borders annually includes Uzbekistan on its "Enemies of the Internet" list for blocking access to international media websites and websites critical of the Uzbek government.
Tashkent tries to offer its netizens’ alternatives. In February, developers unveiled Bamboo, an almost-exact replica of Twitter. Developers have also launched Uface.uz and Sinfdosh.uz (clones of Facebook and Russia’s Odnoklassniki). But all this effort has met little success: Nothing seem to counteract ordinary Uzbeks' skepticism when it comes to the quality of local products and the authorities’ intentions.