The new regulations of secret surveillance fail to ensure the right to privacy and violate the Constitution of Georgia.
On March 1, during a special session of the parliament a package of legislative amendments was approved with third reading that envisages setting up of a new agency under the State Security Service.
Members of This Affects You Too campaign believe that approval of the package sets a deplorable precedent of ignoring the Constitutional Court’s decision. Clearly, the reform not only fails to address the problems that exist in Georgia with regards to the right to privacy but also increases the risks of personal data security breach.
As a result of the reform:
Control of the personal data protection inspector is reduced – although the Constitutional Court of Georgia found the controlling mechanism that the Inspector has been delegated with to be inadequately effective. The mechanism allows the Inspector to make a decision to initiate or stop telephone tapping and as the result of the reform, the mechanism was further weakened. The Inspector will not longer participate in the process of initiation of telephone tapping and s/he will only maintain the power to stop such measure.
Wiretapping by covert means will not be carried out from one place but from several structural entities – up until now, the only entity authorized for phone tapping and recording of phone conversations was the operative/technical department of the State Security Service. As a result of the reform, the newly established agency will be authorized to set up geographic offices, which is once again indicative of the large-scale powers of the agency and the risks of illegal interference with the right to privacy.
The agency set up under the State Security Service will be able to interfere with activities of private companies – except for law enforcement and operative/instigative functions, the Agency will be delegated with certain functions of the Communications Commission: it will participate in the process of licensing of companies, it will have the right to inspect companies that provide electronic communications and demand that they purchase and install certain technical equipment that the agency requires. This will clearly worsen the rights situation of private companies. Delegating the Agency with such powers will eventually threaten the right of privacy of citizens.
The Agency under the system of the State Security Service will be delegated with broad powers and it will not only carry out phone tapping by covert means but will also implement secret investigative and counter-intelligence activities. The Agency will also take on some of the responsibilities of the National Communications Commission with regards to licensing, inspecting electronic communications companies and demanding that they fulfill certain mandatory technical requirements.
In addition, the Agency will maintain access to electronic communications, and in light of the broad responsibilities of the new agency, it will continue to have interest in processing large volumes of information (including personal information). Therefore, the risk that the Agency will abuse the above technical capabilities will still exist.
Because the new regulations introduced by the law adopted on March 1, 2017, fail to ensure privacy of citizens and violates the Constitution of Georgia, This Affects You Too campaign will continue to work on the issue and will try to utilize all available legal mechanisms to change the new law.