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.

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Filed Under: bulk surveillance, georgia, ireland, mass surveillance, surveillance


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  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 11 Dec 2014 @ 3:31am

    Civic Duty

    I ponder, if there were some heroes in the cyber world who could create a Cat Video YouTube hack that could infect and shut down all the government surveillance programs around the planet. Lord knows, everyone loves cat videos. Wouldn't that be cool.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2014 @ 5:06am

    seems like what i read that Bin Laden was supposed to have said is coming true, that we wouldn't have to worry about terrorists, our own governments will do far worse themselves!! as it is, we are being overtaken by mass paranoia for surveillance on everyone, even when there is no need and even when we are innocent of any wrong doing. 1984 and similar offerings in movie format like The Matrix and The Terminator are going to prove correct if we are not careful. what all these people in charge are forgetting is that we have one shot at this living thing. we dont have anywhere else to go that we can reach other than in a dozen plus lifetimes or that can sustain us. fuck this one chance up and we cease to exist and it will all be down to those who are so scared of being hurt, they want to hurt everyone first!! how absolutely fucking ridiculous!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    beltorak (profile), 11 Dec 2014 @ 8:16am

    does this mean that microsoft now has to comply with the us doj's request (complete with a gag order) for some citizen's emails stored in ireland's servers (and it is widely suspected that the person is an irish citizen)?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2014 @ 3:13pm

      Re:

      "does this mean that microsoft now has to comply with the us doj's request (complete with a gag order) for some citizen's emails stored in ireland's servers (and it is widely suspected that the person is an irish citizen)"

      It might be possible to bypass MS and for the UK to co-operate with the US with the usual info-swap back-scratching. From the linked article:

      "Interceptions can only be used in cases with reason, where an investigation is under way, and cannot be used to tap calls indiscriminately.

      Requests

      The newly enacted section also ... sets out how requests from other countries to Ireland for such interceptions should be handled.

      These are separated into requests for technical co-operation, when the assistance of an Irish-based company is needed to set up an interception, and a requirement that the Irish State be notified when a foreign state intends to tap lines but can legally do so without direct Irish assistance."

      So if the GCHQ notified Ireland that it was 'tapping' communications and some 'accident' caused a need for transmission (via some external-to-Microsoft routing) of the sought data from one server to another, then it could be intercepted again on the fly and the Irish government need not participate.

      It isn't mentioned in this article but the linked article does show Ireland's excuse

      "The Department of Justice said: “The decision to commence part 3 of the Act arises from an obligation under the Treaty of Lisbon whereby the State would otherwise be in breach of its obligation to fully implement the provisions of the EU Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters by December 1st, 2014.”"

      I think this convention applies to EU states plus others ratifying it but so far there are only 3 non-EU countries that have done this and entered into enforcing it, so far as I know (Chile, Israel, S Korea)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pandora Opticon, 11 Dec 2014 @ 8:43am

    Jesus watches me, this I know, because Snowden told me so.

    Mass surveillance is now a fact, legal or otherwise. The future will be about setting its bounds and controlling its operators. Not for personal or corporate gains? Not for personal titillation? Not for personal revenge or for those who enjoy the pleasure of causing pain? Not for political control? Stopping, once again in democracies, Courts of Star Chamber that pop up like flies at feces? Monitoring that the watchers follow any rules that a given society puts in place? Setting penalties for violators of the above? Developing a societal consensus about which behaviours for all of the above are acceptable?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 11 Dec 2014 @ 10:02am

    I'm not sure why anyone would do their own mass surveillance anymore when they can just partner with the NSA and outsource it to the US.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Dec 2014 @ 2:24pm

    Let's not forget that during the decades of "The Troubles" (as it was called locally) the people of Nothern Ireland were among the most surveilled people on the planet, and they all knew it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tqk (profile), 11 Dec 2014 @ 10:26pm

    Update your dictionaries.

    New addition to the definition of politician: "One who couldn't be bothered to read his Orwell."

    "Yeah, yeah, you caught us. We've been snooping on everyone and everything for years, but it's okay. We're passing a law to make it legal." When the Russian FSB or PRC wants to tap in too, will that be an amendment to this bill, or will they need a new one entirely?

    Child porn, drug dealers, terrorists; the keys to the kingdom for the surveillance state. We need to send all politicians like this packing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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