Slovak Court Cancels Mass Surveillance of Its Own Citizens

After years of information gathering and storage, the Constitutional Court of the Slovak republic proclaimed the mass surveillance of citizens as ‘unconstitutional’ before shutting it down.

The Electronics Communications Act which until now required mobile network carriers to track communication of their users was forced to be shut down after being deemed unconstitutional. The act, which ordered large-scale mass surveillance of citizens, is now history. The Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic proclaimed the mass surveillance of citizens as fundamentally unconstitutional. The decision was rendered within proceedings initiated by 30 members of the Parliament on behalf of the European Information Society Institute (ElSi), a think-tank based in Slovakia.

The privacy-tampering Act and what it did

According to the now invalid provisions of the Electronic Communications Act, the providers of any electronic communications were obliged to store traffic data, localization data and data about the communicating parties involved, for a period of 6 months.

  • This was mandatory in the case of Internet, email and VoIP (Skype etc.) communications.
  • A period of 12 months was required for any other communication.

Essentially, the data about who, for who long, when, how, and from where the communication was made, had been stored. Data about unsuccessful calls was also stored to the same extent. What’s worse, the legal framework regulating access the data was completely arbitrary and easier to access than a wiretap portrayed in an episode of The Wire.

This draconian obligation to store data was particularly intrusive with the private life of all Slovak citizens, who were subject to extensive surveillance irrespective of their innocence. Although the detailed reasoning of the Court (in its own words) isn’t made available yet, it is evident that this kind of intrusion and interference with a citizen’s right to privacy will not be tolerated in the future.

Yesterday’s decision of the Slovak Constitutional Court confirmed that the initiative started by ElSi more than five years ago was substantiated. “The mass surveillance of electronic communications of Slovak citizens led to years of continual unconstitutional violations of their privacy”, stated Ľubomír Lukič, EISi’s lawyer and one of the original initiators of the action.

The decision of the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic was issued almost a year to the day after the Court of Justice of the European Union proclaimed the Data Retention Directive – invalid, in the spring of 2014. At the time, The Constitutional Court of Slovakia promptly reacted by suspending the collection of data through an initial preliminary measure.

Now, on April 30, 2015, the data collection was completely cancelled.