Government attempts of increased level of surveillance in Czech Republic

7. 11. 2007 | 14:09

The Czech Interior Ministry introduced in October 2007 a new National Action Plan to Combat Terrorism that would increase the access of the police and intelligence authorities to personal data, under the pretext of the protection against terrorism. The Czech Ministry of Interior has introduced a similar plan every year since 2002 - in 2005 it actually won the Czech Big Brother Award for it - which, until now, has been rejected by the Parliament. The Plan of Action is meant to be used to draft legislation allowing police and other agencies to have access to emails and to wiretap without following any court procedures. "According to the current legal regulations, in order to perform certain actions it is necessary that security bodies meet a number of requirements and conditions, the existence of which is unquestionable," stated Vladimír Repka, spokesman for the Interior Ministry. As compared to the plan proposed last year, this year`s plan seems to have a much more ambiguous wording that " it is actually very difficult to argue against it" says privacy expert Filip Pospísil from the EDRI-member Czech NGO Iuridicum Remedium. According to him, the plan is inspired from the US Patriot Act that that give the US police authorities direct access to personal data. Presently, in Czech Republic, the interception of emails and wiretapping can be done only by a court order that is valid for up to six months. "They want to have the power just to call the judge and then to get written approval later" said Pospísil. What the Interior Ministry also wants is to force financial institutions and private Internet providers to pass on clients` information to security agencies as well as to eliminate anonymous phone cards. In Pospísil`s opinion, the present plan is meant as a test to check out on the position of the policy makers and of the public as anyway, even if approved by the government, the plan has no value if it is not passed by the Parliament. "I think it`s just a kind of test by the Interior Ministry and other intelligence services to test the willingness of the public and its representatives to exchange some privacy for promises of improved security," he said. Privacy International has issued reports on the situation in the Czech Republic showing concern on the increase of the government attempts to legalise wiretapping, to create a central database from the separate databases of the security agencies as well as on the high level of video surveillance in the country, unrestricted by law. Hana Stepánková, the spokeswoman of the Office of Personal Data Protection, which is responsible for enforcing the country`s privacy laws, stated that the office lawyers are presently studying the proposal. The draft plan may receive comments from the public until the end of October but there is no guarantee that the Interior Ministry will take any comments into consideration. Ministry seeks approval for terror law (24.10.2007) EDRI-gram: Big Brother Awards presented in 4 countries (3.11.2007)

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