Constitutional Court Throws Out Surveillance Law In Georgia (The Country)

from the setting-a-good-example dept

Techdirt has naturally been following closely the battles over government attempts to bring in ever-more intrusive surveillance laws, particularly in the US, UK, and China, which are some of the worst culprits in this regard. But it’s important to remember that this is a struggle that is taking place all around the world, even in the smaller countries that often get overlooked by mainstream media. For example, Georgia — the country, not the state — is witnessing exactly the same tussle between the politicians and the courts that we find elsewhere, as reported here on the site:

Georgia’s Constitutional Court ruled on April 14 that legislation allowing security agency to have direct, unrestricted access to telecom operators’ networks to monitor communications is unconstitutional.

As the article explains, the key issue is over the use of “black boxes” sitting on communication service providers’ networks. In 2014, efforts were made to address concerns that the system would be abused, by adopting the following approach:

Legislation gave the office of personal data protection inspector the right to electronically authorize law enforcement agencies’ lawful interception of communications once there was a relevant court warrant — this system, involving security agency having direct access to telecom operators servers and personal data inspector having power to authorize monitoring is informally called “two-key” model.

The passage of the the two-key legislation was fraught: it was adopted by the Georgian Parliament, vetoed by the Georgian President and then reinstated by the Parliament. As a result, complaints were lodged with the country’s Constitutional Court, which has just handed down its judgment against the two-key system. One of the problems, the judges said, was the following:

The State Security Service possesses technical capabilities for eavesdropping and monitoring online communications, which allow mass (actually unrestricted) collection of personal information in real time.

The court was also unhappy with the metadata retention allowed by the legislation:

The court said that retention of metadata for 2 years represents “unreasonably lengthy period of time, which results into disproportionate interference into [constitutional] rights.”

After making both of those reasonable comments, the judges went on to give the Georgian politicians a reasonable amount of time to sort things out:

The Constitutional Court said that it understands “fundamental legislative amendments, as well as institutional and technical application of the new system”, stemming from this verdict, requires time and for that reason it set March 31, 2017 as the deadline for implementing this decision of the court.

All in all, Georgia emerges rather well from this episode, with democratic processes working as they should, and constitutional judges doing a good job. If only the same could be said for all the other countries going through the same painful experience.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

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