New legislation Regulating Secret Surveillance Violates Georgian Constitution

Statements 2 March 2017


On March 1, the Georgian Parliament approved a package of legislative amendments with the third and final hearing that involves creating a new agency under the State Security Service that will carry out secret surveillance activities.


Members of the campaign - This Affects You believe that this decision is an unfortunate precedent of disregard of a Constitutional Court decision. Not only does this reform fail to resolve existing problems related to protection of the right to privacy, but it also increases the risk of abuse of personal data.


As a result of the reform:


- Surveillance oversight by the Personal Data Protection Inspector will be reduced, even though the Constitutional Court had deemed the previous oversight powers of the Inspector to be insufficient. The reform reduces the Inspector’s authority to initiate and terminate wiretapping to only the latter.


- Secret surveillance will no longer be carried out at a single location. Previously, only one state body (Operative-Technical Department of the State Security Service) was authorized to carry out wiretapping and recording of telephone conversations. The reform allows the newly created agency to have territorial units, effectively increasing its scope of activity and risks of violation of privacy.


- The new agency under the State Security Service will interfere with private business. In addition to investigative and enforcement functions, the new agency will share certain competences of the Georgian National Communications Commission: it will take part in company licensing process,  and will have the authority to inspect e-communications companies and demand they purchase and install technical equipment that meets their specifications. This clearly weakens the rights of private companies and, ultimately, threatens the right to privacy of Georgian citizens.


The new agency under the State Security Service will be granted broad powers to carry out not only secret wiretapping and recording of telephone conversations, but also secret investigative and counterintelligence activities. The agency will also share authority with the Georgian National Communications Commission in licensing, inspection of e-communications companies, and demanding of technical changes.


In addition, the State Security Service will maintain its direct access to electronic communication. Considering the broad authority of the new agency, the State Security Service will continue to have interest in processing large volumes of data (including personal data), which holds risks of abuse of the technical capability of directly accessing electronic communication.


Legislative amendments adopted on March 1, 2017, violate the Georgian Constitution and do not ensure the protection of the right to privacy. Therefore, the campaign - This Affects You will use all available legal mechanisms to change the new law.

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