Poland celebrated its 25 years of democracy recently. In those two and a half decades, among other changes, most public institutions in Poland have got more or less used to citizens' control. It has taken years of advocacy and watchdog activity, as well as a number of court cases to decide whether a given piece of information is actually “public”. But this investment is now paying off: today even some of the most secret of all secret services answer freedom of information requests concerning their work. There is, however, a stain in the image: one agency – Military Counterintelligence Service (SKW) – that keeps refusing to disclose any kind of information about its activity. Their approach is a reminder of much deeper and systemic problem faced by Polish authorities: the uncontrolled and uncoordinated secret services.
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We are fast approaching an anniversary of first disclosures made by Edward Snowden. Even though the fundaments of our trust in democratic institutions and human rights safeguards have been shaken, political reality as seen from the European perspective remains more or less intact. What may seem even more frustrating, our understanding of the real politics behind mass surveillance programmes as revealed by Snowden remains limited.
In our first attempt at a “transparency report”, we looked at what happens at the interface of Internet service providers and public authorities in Poland. Who sends requests for users' data? How many and for what purpose? What legal procedures are followed and what safeguards apply? Our pilot study includes analysis of legal provisions and collection of data from both major Internet Service Providers and public authorities. The report explains systemic problems that were identified in our research and that should be solved in order to ensure adequate standard of protection for individuals.
Access of public authorities to the data of Internet service users. Seven issues and several hypotheses
The report looks at what happens at the interface of Internet service providers and public authorities in Poland. Who sends requests for users data, how many and for what purpose, what legal procedures are followed and what safeguards apply. During our research we analysed legal provisions and collected data from both major Internet service providers and public authorities. On that basis we were able to identify several systemic problems that should be solved in order to ensure adequate standard of protection for individuals.
Where the Law Enforcement Meets the Internet: Polish Struggle for More Transparency, PDF Poland-CEE 2014 [VIDEO]
Before Snowden’s revelations we had known about FISA – law that mandates big companies to cooperate with U.S. intelligence agencies and revealed data about us, but we have not been aware of the scale and the depth of that surveillance. On the basis of this new information about NSA’s mass surveillance programs, Panoptykon Foundation tried to better understand how law enforcement and intelligence agencies in Poland can access data of Internet users and thus bring more transparency in this area. Katarzyna Szymielewicz presents main conclusions from this research.
In 2013, we learned digital surveillance by the world’s governments has no limits. The NSA and other intelligence agencies are capturing our phone calls, tracking our location, peering into our contacts, and collecting our emails. They do this in secret, without adequate public oversight, and in violation of our human rights. We cannot tolerate this anymore. On Tuesday February 11, the world is fighting back.
Access of the law enforcement agencies and secret services upon more or less formal warrants and request do not cover the whole problem of the online surveillance. More and more date is available out there without any warrants – just to read, take and process. It is the situation, when the data that we all publish online, with more or less awareness of the consequences, is used by authorities mention above for whatever purposes. How purpose limitation could possibly be used to limit open source surveillance? To what extent privacy settings that by default enable or enhance making data public help in conducting this type of surveillance? How open source surveillance might influence individual?
Have the Polish authorities been aware of the PRISM program operated by US security services and have they discovered violations of the Polish law? Is the Polish prosecution going to investigate the matter? Who, and on what grounds, decided to refuse asylum to Edward Snowden?
These are just three of the 100 questions that Amnesty International Poland, the Panoptykon Foundation and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights asked today to the public authorities, including the Prime Minister, the Minister of the Interior and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
How many times did the public institutions reach out for the data concerning our telecommunication activities (dial records, etc.) in 2011? Over 1,85 million! We publish the latest data received from the Office of Electronic Communications (UKE).