Bulgaria MPs Compromise on Electronic Communications Act

Domestic | February 17, 2010, Wednesday // 16:04|  views

The GERB MPs agreed at second and final reading with the request of the rightist Blue Coalition and the opposition ethnic Turkish DPS to allow investigators to ask for traffic data only when serious or computer crimes are involved. Photo by BGNES

The Interior Ministry backed off Wednesday from one more amendment of the new Electronic Communications Act and the so-called traffic data.

In a last moment move, the Interior and the Members of the Parliament from the ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party agreed at second and final reading with the request of the rightist Blue Coalition and the opposition ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms that the investigators can ask for the data only when serious or computer crimes are involved.

The majority gave up on the text voted about 10 days ago by the Parliamentary Committee for Electronic Communications, according to which access to such information could have been requested for other crimes - threatening a public servant, vote buying, distribution of pornographic materials, money laundering, illegal border crossing.

A month ago, amidst protest rallies, the Interior agreed to put off the so-called interface project that would allow the police access to electronic communications under the condition that mobile and internet operators provide the requested data in 2 hours or less. According to the final amendments, mobile operators are asked to provide the data ASAP and not later than 72 hours. The requirement is imposed by the frequent occurring of moth-long delays by the providers despite the court warrants.

The new Act also provides for the Interior Minister, or an individual designated by him, to determine a deadline different that the one in the text depending on the urgency or the volume of the requested information.

The Act further includes rules for deleting data – it would be kept by the operators for 6 months after the request. The authorities also have 6 months to destroy the information if it is no longer used in the probe. The data will be wiped off by a 3-member Committee.

The Parliamentary Committee for Electronic Communications will monitor and control the procedures for granting and using traffic data and will protect citizens’ rights. In addition, the Commission for Protection of Private Data will have to present to the Parliament and the European Commission annual reports about the cases where operators have provided the Interior with traffic data.

The opposition reiterated their Tuesday question of why the term “interface” has been replaced in the text of the amendments with the expression “system of a monitoring center and other program tools,” and was voted by the Parliamentary Committee for Electronic Communications. The Deputy Interior Minister, Veselin Vuchkov, explained that the latter is not at all connected with spying on internet and cell phone activities, but involves real eavesdropping on conversations, and has been in use for the last 10 years.

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Tags: interior ministry, Electronic Communications Act, Atanas Atanasov, Bulgaria Is Not Big Brother


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