Normalization Of Mass Surveillance Continues: Ireland And Georgia Join The Snoopers Club
from the in-camera dept
One of the consequences of the Snowden leaks of mass surveillance around the world is that a number of governments have been bringing in new laws in order to provide a legal framework for the snooping they have previously been carrying out illegally, when they obviously thought that no one would ever find out. Here’s a story in The Irish Times about recent moves in Ireland:
Foreign law enforcement agencies will be allowed to tap Irish phone calls and intercept emails under a statutory instrument signed into law by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.
Companies that object or refuse to comply with an intercept order could be brought before a private “in camera” court.
The legislation, which took effect on Monday, was signed into law without fanfare on November 26th, the day after documents emerged in a German newspaper indicating the British spy agency General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had directly tapped undersea communications cables between Ireland and Britain for years.
As that reports, there’s also a troubling new secret court for enforcing such intercept orders — something that is extremely unusual in Ireland:
“Even with very sensitive cases in Ireland they?re not prosecuted in camera,” said TJ McIntyre, lecturer at University College Dublin?s school of law and chairman of advocacy group Digital Rights Ireland. “It’s worrying because it means telecommunications companies might be pressured into doing things that aren?t entirely legal.”
The companies would be prosecuted in secret, and would be unable to disclose their objections publicly ? or even the fact that they were being prosecuted.
Ireland’s move is a further example of how enshrining the ability to spy at home and abroad is taking precedence over basic rights — in this case, to an open trial. Another country making worrying moves to normalize snooping on its citizens is Georgia, whose Parliament gave a first reading to new laws covering this area, as reported by Civil.ge:
The government-backed package of bills allows the Interior Ministry to retain its direct access to telecom operators’ networks, but also empowers the office of personal data protection inspector to electronically monitor if the security agencies are carrying out surveillance lawfully, based on court warrant.
But the opponents, which also include civil society groups who have long been campaigning for reining in security agencies’ unrestricted direct access to telecom operators? networks, argue that actual wording of the bill, full of complex technical terms about lawful interception management system, hash codes and log files, is far from what its sponsors are trying to portray and leaves room for the Interior Ministry to bypass personal data protection inspector for carrying out illegal monitoring of mobile phone and internet communication.
Unfortunately, the more these laws are passed, the more other countries are likely to follow suit, until legalized mass snooping becomes the norm. That’s all the more reason to challenge these early examples in any way possible, as is happening in the UK, for example, before the idea spreads everywhere.