PROPOSAL TO LET SECURITY FORCES ACCESS PHONE RECORDS DROPPED FROM AGENDA

Law would give access to phone records

SHORTLY AFTER reports were published of a draft law that would let security forces obtain phone records without court approval, the amendment was withdrawn from the legislative agenda.

SHORTLY AFTER reports were published of a draft law that would let security forces obtain phone records without court approval, the amendment was withdrawn from the legislative agenda.

The amendment to the Law on Electronic Communication would let the police, Slovak Information Service (SIS) and Military Defence Intelligence access records of who was called from a given phone number and when the calls were made. The amendment would allow the authorities to get the data from phone operators without prior court approval.

The Legislative Governmental Council was to have discussed the amendment on April 10. The Governmental Office said it would publish the amendment on the internet on the same day. However, it did not publish it until late in the evening.

The Legislative Governmental Council is led by Deputy Minister of Justice Anna Vitteková. She said the council did not address this issue and, according to her, it was not even planned.

On April 10, only the first draft of the amendment was published on the Transport Ministry's website. By then, the draft had already changed due to comments made by different departments.

The clause about bypassing the requirement for the court's agreement when retrieving phone data was proposed by security forces.

The SIS and the Military Defence Intelligence refused to comment on this issue.

Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák said the final form of the amendment is still being discussed. He said skipping the court's approval could help police when they need to act quickly.

"I don't want just any office worker to be able to decide (when it is necessary) and have access to it, but rather we are considering the possibility of having one person who will be responsible for it," he said.

The agreement to ask for a record of phone calls could be granted by the director of one of the sections of the SIS, or by the first vice-president of the police, Kaliňák said.

"So far we have been discussing how to make this step effective, but at the same time not open to abuse," he said.

Police envision that these phone records will only be accessible to security forces when they need to move quickly. If they find that the records are needed as evidence in a prosecution, they could ask for them, along with permission to tap the person's phone line, according to normal procedure. In theory, the phone records would help them find out whether they really need to tap the given phone number.

Mobile phone operators are not happy with the proposal. It would oblige them to archive internet communication data for six months and phone communication data for two years, at their own expense. They also do not like the idea that the security forces could switch off their network at any time - for instance, in the case of an imminent terrorist attack.

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