Big Brother laws: Between national security reasons and risk of abuse on fundamental civic rights

The recent terrorist attacks in France have re-launched a heated debate in Romania on the so-called “Big Brother” laws, already ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR) in 2014.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta and heads of the relevant institutions with competences in the national security fields have recently claimed new laws are necessary, in accordance with CCR’s decision on the storage of data generated or processed by the providers of electronic networks and communications for the public.

On January 8, an emergency meeting was convened at the Ministry for the Information Society. Asked about it, Ponta answered the meeting was convened by Vice Prime Minister Gabriel Oprea, whose attributions covered public order and national security, to decide the steps to be taken after the Constitutional Court’s rulings on these matters. The prime minister said the Government had to submit new legislation to Parliament’s approval.

On September 1 2014, the Constitutional Court of Romania ruled that the judiciary and national security organizations are no longer allowed to access and use data obtained and stored under the ‘Big Brother’ law until the Parliament passes new legislation on data storage.


CCR President: Legislation on data storage should observe the fundamental rights and freedoms


Constitutional Court (CCR) President Augustin Zegrean (photo)  reminds that the so-called ‘Big Brother’ laws have been already checked in the summer of 2014 and found unconstitutional. On Thursday, he declared that regulations impacting the privacy should observe the fundamental rights and freedoms.
‘If the laws provide sufficient guarantees for the respect of Constitution’s articles on the secret of correspondence and on the right to privacy and so on, we have nothing against the law enforcement agencies do what they want, as long as they defend the country against terrorism,’ Zegrean said at the CCR offices.

CSM wants its own say on cyber crime law


Supreme Council of Magistracy’s (CSM)  President Marius Tudose says the Council favours the signing of the cyber security law, on the condition it has its own say on it beforehand.

Tudose mentioned that the plenum of the CSM found appropriate to make observations both on the modification of the Government Emergency Ordinance No. 111/2011 on electronic communications and on Law No. 506/2004 on processing private data and protecting privacy, so that authorization by a judge was required.

‘As regards the cyber security law, we found it appropriate to debate in a taskforce the extent of our possibility of intervening at the current state of the matter,’ he added


ANCOM President: Romania needs security laws to protect its citizens, but  not to limit their rights


Romania must have security laws to protect its citizens, but, at the same time, which should not limit their rights, says President of the National Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications /ANCOM/, Catalin Marinescu, in an interview for Agerpres.

The official commented on two normative acts that refer, on the one hand, to the sale of pre-paid phone cards based on an identification card, and, on the other hand, to the data storing for six months by telecom operators.

“It is important to have a legal framework, to have wide transparency in the implementation of the legal framework, that there should be no abuse. The law on the sale of pre-paid phone cards based on an identification card as well as data storing for six months by telecom operators must be done very carefully, so as not to limit civic rights, but, on the other hand, to create some powerful tools for ensuring Romanian citizens’ safety,” said Marinescu.

Marinescu also spoke about the round of auctions in 2015 for digital terrestrial television multiplexes, but also on the drawing up a map of electronic communications networks in Romania, the checking by ANCOM of the contracts that electronic service providers sign with users, respectively.

According to Marinescu, Romania’s telecom market is stable, as it has matured in certain segments. “For example, landline telephony, in recent years, then mobile one, for a year or two. This means that the number of users is no longer going up, since the mobile penetration is over 100%, so it will not increase considerably.

On the other hand, the amount of services used, the number of minutes spoken, and the number of text messages are going up. There is a growing market on this segment and it shows, in fact, the Romanian market’s potential. A market that is still far away from reaching maturity is the Internet service market, both landline and mobile one.

Here, there are significant increases, of over two million new high-speed active mobile internet connections within a year. For 2015, I expect things to happen only in terms of offers. The tendency this year will be more consumption. On the Internet market, increasingly more users will use the Internet, at least on their mobile phones,” the official concluded.


Chamber of Deputies’ Speaker: The Big Brother laws are urgent and necessary


Speaker of the Deputies’ Chamber, Valeriu Zgonea, believes that the Big Brother law (Law No. 82 as of 2012 that is) and the prepaid mobile phone cards law are both urgent and necessary, in order for the national security system to function, the CSAT [Supreme Council for National Defence] following to decide whether these laws should pass under an emergency regime through the two Chambers or maybe the Government should pledge responsibility for them.
‘I believe that the two laws are both urgent and necessary, in order for the national security to work based on the parameters that we are used to. We are the safest and the most stable country in our region […] These are the result of such actions conducted by our national security systems based on the laws that we passed. If you deny them the instruments they need, they will no longer be able to do their work. I believe that there are enough capable men who will be able to draft a law that will comply with the Constitution too and, at the same time, give the SRI [Romanian Intelligence Service], MAI [Ministry for Administration and Interior] and the other institutions of national security those instruments that they need, in order to be able to do a serious job. I supported this law from the very beginning and I will continue to support it, for I know what it means,’ Zgonea stated at the Parliament Palace.

Asked if they discussed this topic in the coalition too, if Parliament is going to correct the law on cyber security and if there is going to be a special committee created especially for this purpose, his answer was the following: ‘No. We will continue to follow the same procedure as before. Depending on the priorities, emergencies, the Government and all those who are members of the CSAT […] will make their decision, since this is a matter that has to do with the national security of the Romanian state and our credibility in front of the Euro-Atlantic structures and the EU as well. If the conclusion is that we need to accelerate the passing of these laws in the two chambers, then that is what we are going to do. If, on the contrary, they decide that the Government should pledge responsibility instead, then we are going to follow that principle. The Law on the national security was decided by the CSAT, not by us. They were the ones that decided upon certain formulas. The prepaid mobile phone cards law, the Big Brother law and the others were all decided by them, they were drafted by the Government, through the specialist ministers and submitted further to the Legislature, which observes the same formula.”

He showed that, in what concerns the constitutionality, there is also the variant of the Government pledging responsibility for this package of laws, but that, in his opinion, this won’t be the case, since all the political parties want an open debate on the matter.

According to Agerpres, Valeriu Zgonea estimated that these laws should be approved by the end of February.


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