The Slovak Constitutional Court cancelled mass surveillance of citizens
An act, which ordered large-scale mass surveillance of citizens (so called data retention) is now history. Today the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic proclaimed the mass surveillance of citizens as unconstitutional. The decision was rendered within proceedings initiated by 30 members of the Parliament on behalf of the European Information Society Institute (EISi), a Slovakia based think-tank.
In a non-public session, the Grand Chamber of the Constitutional Court (PL. ÚS 10/2014) proclaimed provisions § 58(5) to (7) and § 63(6) of the Electronic Communications Act (Act No. 351/2011 Coll.), which until now required mobile network providers to track the communication of their users, as well as provisions of § 116 of the Penal Code (Act No. 301/2005 Coll.) and § 76(3) of the Police Force Act (Act No. 171/1993 Coll.), which allowed access to this data, to be in contradiction to the constitutionally guaranteed rights of citizens to privacy and personal data. As a consequence, these provisions lost their binding effect.
According to now invalid provisions of the Electronic Communications Act, the providers of electronic communications were obliged to store traffic data, localization data and data about the communicating parties for a period of 6 months (in the case Internet, email or VoIP communication) or for a period of 12 months (in case of other communication). Hence, data about who, for how long, when, how and from where the communication was made, has been stored. Data about unsuccessful calls was also stored to the same extent. Moreover, the legal framework regulating the access to data retention data was completely arbitrary and much more benevolent than comparable provisions on wire-tapping.
The obligation to store data, presented, for a long time, perceivable interference with the private life of all Slovak citizens, who were subject to extensive surveillance irrespective of their honesty or innocence. Although the detailed reasoning of the Court is not available yet, it is clear, that this kind of interference with a citizen's right to privacy will not be possible in the future.
Today's decision of the Slovak Constitutional Court confirmed that the initiative started by EISi 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 after the Court of Justice of the European Union proclaimed the Data Retention Directive invalid in the Spring of 2014. At that time, the Constitutional Court of Slovakia promptly reacted by suspending the collection of data through a preliminary measure
. Today, data collection was completely cancelled.