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News 28 Sep 12

Albania Empowers Agencies to Monitor Internet

An amendment to the law on intercepting telecommunications will expand government agencies' powers to monitor communications to include Internet activity.

Besar Likmeta
BIRN
Tirana
Wiretapping | Source : Flickr

The bill presented to Wednesday's cabinet by Prime Minister Sali Berisha gives intelligence and law enforcement agencies broad powers to work with private companies to share information on Internet users.

“If the current law provides for the interception of vocal communications, meaning telephone lines or GSM networks, the new bill will add interceptions that pass through Internet protocol, including voice, navigation and electronic mail,” Arjan Dyrmishi, head of the Center for European & Security Affairs at the Tirana Institute of Mediation and Democracy, IDM, explained.

Dyrmishi said the bill will oblige service providers to install capacities at their own cost to enable government agencies to gain access to electronic communications.   

The bill also allows for the decentralization of the wiretapping process on criminal cases from the general prosecutor’s office to regional prosecutors' offices.

Dyrmishi underlines that although such decentralization has nothing wrong about it from a legal point of view, it opens up a number of technical challenges concerning the oversight of such interceptions.

“As in any democratic country, the courts must order interceptions [to be valid in criminal cases], but decentralization of interceptions will make the process of oversight difficult,” he said. 

“Only about 1 per cent of all interceptions end up in court as part of a criminal proceeding, so the question is what happens with the rest,” he added.

The law on the interception of communications was last amended in October 2009. The changes increased the number of government agencies with competencies to intercept communications.

An IDM study in 2010 noted that several Albanian institutions currently have the power to intercept communications.

These include the State Security Agency, SHISH, the General Prosecutor’s Office, the intelligence and law enforcement agencies of the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defence.

The 2009 amendment also granted wiretapping capabilities to the Internal Audit Service of the Ministry of Interior.  

Dyrmishi said that both the current and past amendments to the law had expanded the scope of agencies empowered to carry out interceptions - but without setting in place a proper watchdog system or control mechanism for the oversight of the law.

This increases the risk of illegal wiretapping, he says.

“It is widely accepted that implementation of laws is poor in Albania, and this law is no exception,” Dyrmishi said.

“The problem with all these [spying] capacities is that no independent supervisory body exists to monitor them,” he concluded.

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