Greece launched draft bill on ensuring the secrecy of telephone communications for public consultation

24 July 2007

Eleni Kosta, of ICRI, writes:

The wiretapping scandal that was revealed a couple of years ago in Greece (also covered in IEEE Spectrum) has lead to the drafting of a bill on ensuring the secrecy of telephone communication that was presented in the beginning of July and was launched for public consultation. In the explanatory memo of the bill it is explicitly mentioned that the wiretapping scandal has revealed that there is a clear need for additional measures ensuring the secrecy of communication, a right that is constitutionally protected under Article 19 of the Greek Constitution. However the new measures will cover only fixed and mobile telephony, leaving out the rest of the electronic communications. This was a deliberate choice, given that there are still a lot of discussions regarding them at European level and their regulation at national level at this point was considered as premature.

The draft bill mainly imposes additional obligation to the providers of electronic communications networks or services (hereafter ‘providers’), as they are defined in law 3431/2006 on electronic communications. The providers are liable for the security of their areas, establishments, connections, as well as software and hardware systems and shall use systems that ensure the secrecy of communications on one hand and allow the revealing of violations or attempts to violate the secrecy of communications. Thus the choice of adequate measures becomes a responsibility of the providers, who can no longer claim ignorance regarding the technical possibilities of their systems in cases of violations of the secrecy of communications. The providers are obliged to deploy a ‘Special Plan on Civil Security for the Protection of the Secrecy of Communications’, according to the regulations of the Hellenic Authority for the Information and Communication Security and Privacy (the Greek abbreviation is ADAE). The draft bill boosts the responsibilities of the aforementioned authority, which now has the right to replace the responsible for the secrecy of communications of a provider, if ADAE views that they don’t have the qualifications to reliably serve their duties

Although the encryption of the transmitted information signals is internationally considered as a reliable method for the protection of the secrecy of communications, its commercial deployment in the market would imply additional costs. Therefore the draft bill does not directly regulate the issue of encryption, but rather foresees that a presidential decree may be adopted, calling for the encryption of the voice information signals. On the contrary providers are already obliged to keep the log files of their activities and to submit trimonthly reports to ADAE regarding cases of the withdrawal of the secrecy of communications.

The draft bill foresees also new penal provisions for the more efficient protection of the safety of communications. The wiretapping or obstruction does not only specifically refer to a device or a telephone connection, but to the hardware and software that is used for the provision of the telephone services. Moreover in order to have a punishable action, it is no longer necessary that the offender does not need to act for himself, but even when some third person in going to be informed or to record the content of a telephone conversation between others or the traffic and location data of this conversation.

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