Iranian schoolgirls chat online at an internet cafe
Iranian schoolgirls chat online at an internet cafe

Iran has been accused of a new internet clampdown after issuing a new set of more restrictive guidelines.

Citizens visiting internet cafes will now been asked to provide personal information including their name, father's name, national ID number, and telephone number.

Internet café owners will also be required to keep their customers' personal data as well as a record of the web sites and pages they visit for six months.

"Internet cafes are required to write down the forename, surname, name of the father, national identification number, postcode and telephone number of each customer," said an Iranian police statement, according to the news website Tabnak.

"Besides the personal information, they must maintain other information on the customer such as the date and the time of using the internet and the IP address, and the addresses of the websites visited. They should keep this information for each individual for at least six months."

Other rules also include the installation of closed-circuit TV cameras, with owners also required to keep video recordings for up to six months.

Internet cafes have just 15 days to comply with the new guidelines, which were issued on January 3.

Officials have warned that owners should immediately deny access to customers who refuse to show a proof of identity.

The cyber police force, set up in 2011, said the reason for the new measures came as ""citizens are concerned about theft of information" and security.

A National Internet ahead of the elections?

Many are however concerned the Iranian authorities will now be able to track down opponents more easily.

The country has a record of threatening and arresting online activists and bloggers.

In 2009 and despite Iran's tough censorship, opposition activists turned to the internet to denounce a state crackdown on the protests that followed the re-election of President Ahmadinejad.

Since then the leadership has stepped up efforts to expand its control over the internet, which it says is used by enemies such as the US to influence public opinion in order to destabilise the Islamic republic.

Iranians are also concerned over the country's plan to create a national internet, which could be announced within the next two weeks. Others insist it will be launched in time for the 1979 revolution anniversary in February.

Such a move would come just months before the legislative elections planned for March 2012.

In recent week users have complained of an important reduction in internet speed, which according to the Roozegar newspaper appears to be the result of testing the national internet.

"According to some of the people in charge of the communication industry, attempts to launch a national internet network are the cause of disruption in internet and its speed reduction in recent weeks," Roozegar reported.

"If the national internet comes into effect, the internet in the country will act like an internal network and therefore visiting the websites needs permission from the people in charge. Users outside Iran also need permission to visit websites running from inside the country," Roozegar's report warned.