Secret Surveillance in Georgia: 2015 – 2016

News | Media Internet Telecommunications | Publications | Report 7 April 2016

The Current report overviews main developments in terms of regulating secret surveillance in Georgia in the period between June 2015 and March 2016, such as recent cases of illegal surveillance and revival of the Campaign “This Affects You Too” in March 2016, first results of the “two-key” system and the role of the Personal Data Protection Inspector in the process, as well as proactive disclosure of statistical information related to secret surveillance.

 

After thousands of shocking cases of illegal surveillance and wiretapping by the government revealed prior to Parliamentary Elections 2012, regulating the issue was high on the political agenda.


During the process the most important division of interests concerned limiting direct access of law enforcing agencies to telecommunications data. On the one hand, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, supported by the Government of Georgia and part of Parliament members, remained strongly opposed to the suggested changes limiting this access. On the other hand, the President, CSOs united in a campaign “This Affects You” as well as a number of Parliament members strongly advocated for limitation of direct access to the data.


After multiple discussions, extensions of the deadline, four various bills and two vetoes from the President, the Parliament adopted the government-supported bill. According to the adopted bill the Ministry of Internal Affairs has retained its direct access to telecom operators’ servers, however, after obtaining court warrant the Ministry shall require authorization, including technical one, from Personal Data Protection Inspector’s Office in order to carry out surveillance through the so called “two-key system”.


The campaign continued advocating for depriving security agencies of direct access to telecom operators’ networks after adoption of the government-supported bill and filed a lawsuit in the Constitutional Court against the Parliament of Georgia.


From March 31, 2015 the so called “two-key” system was launched and the Personal Data Protection Inspector assumed obligation to check whether the decision of the court (or in urgent cases of the Prosecutor’s Office) to conduct surveillance is implemented in a right way.


Most recently, due to spreading of several sex tapes and protests from the society, “It Affects You Too” Campaign was revived on March 14th, 2016. Furthermore a discussion started among the Parliament, law-enforcement agencies and the Personal Data Protection Inspector on possible legislative changes to make punishment for violating privacy rights stricter.


On a positive note, the Supreme Court proactively discloses statistical information on surveillance starting since September 2014. This obligation was taken by the Supreme Court as a result of the recommendation made by IDFI and other CSOs in the framework of the OGP Action Plan of Georgia, which was recognized by Open Government Partnership (OGP) as one of the most successful and unique ones worldwide.

 

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