After thousands of shocking cases of illegal surveillance and wiretapping by the government revealed prior to Parliamentary Elections 2012, regulating the issue was one of the main pre-Election promises of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition.
Despite high public interest and necessary steps taken by the new political power, such as creating an Interim Commission on Illegal Surveillance and Wiretapping and submitting a package of legislative amendments for surveillance, the credibility of the process was undermined by critical statements from government representatives. 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 Prime Minister Gharibashvili, his predecessor Prime Minister Ivanishvili 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.
At the first stage of legal changes five laws were amended in August 2014, however the issue of direct access to telecommunication data was not resolved until November 2014. 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. 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. Interestingly, as the public information received by IDFI has shown, there is no single standard of releasing information on surveillance.
On a positive note, the Supreme Court has considered the recommendation made by IDFI and other CSOs in the framework of the OGP Action Plan of Georgia and took obligation to proactively disclose statistical information on surveillance since September 2014.
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