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Data retention and politics - Електронна граница — Електронна граница

Data retention and politics

by Електронна граница on March 31, 2008 · 0 comments

in News in English

The partner in the tripartite ruling coalition, the National Movement for Stability and Progress (NMSP), finally managed to regain the top seat in one of the most important committees in Parliament. On February 20, NMSP MP Mincho Spassov was elected chairperson of the internal security and public order committee, entitled to summon to hearings the heads of Bulgaria’s special services.Spassov’s nomination did not come as a surprise because his name had been circulated in Bulgarian-language media for weeks. In an interview for The Sofia Echo on February 8 Spasov did not deny reports that he was going to be the committee’s new chairperson. The need for new leadership of the committee in question appeared after 14 MPs split from the NMPS last December. Among them was Nikolai Svinarov, chairperson of the committee and former defence minister in the cabinet headed by NMSP leader Simeon Saxe-Coburg (prime minister 2001-05). The 14 MPs, whose number later grew to 17, formed the biggest by size opposition group in Parliament, Bulgarian New Democracy (BND). Svinarov’s departure from the NMSP meant that he had to vacate the posts he took in his capacity as NMSP MP. The BND’s leader Borislav Ralchev called upon his former colleagues from the NMSP to refrain from asking for the change, but his calls were not heeded. On February 8, Spassov said that among his priorities as chairperson of the committee will be the information systems of the Interior Ministry.

Spassov said that the NMSP has formed a working group that would investigate the issue with regard to the European Directive on Data Retention (DRD). If approved by the Government, as was the intention, all personal e-mails, chat programmes and data could legally be monitored by the Interior Ministry. If the DRD proved to have provisions that were anti-constitutional, Spassov said the NMSP would ask the Supreme Administrative Court to examine it.

The debate, instigated by the DRD, has proven to be a completely new issue for Bulgaria. Until now internet privacy was rarely a subject on the agenda of any of Bulgaria’s high profile politicians.

With the DRD issue taken on its own, another subject looms – namely spamming. Although Bulgaria is at the eastern end of the European Union, the country’s citizens and businesses are well exposed to anyone who targets them as potential customers. Despite the fact that Meglena Kouneva – the EU commissioner for consumer protection – is Bulgarian, the existing legislation regarding spam protection has reaped few results. Internet users are constantly open to “attacks”.

In theory, all should be fine. The Law on Electronic Commerce provides for sanctions for anyone sending unrequested e-messages, i.e. spamming. Individuals could be fined between 250 and 1500 leva and companies between 500 and 2000 leva. The maximum sanction possible for repeated violations is 4000 leva, the law says.

Furthermore, the law provides that each service provider, who sends unrequested commercial messages via e-mail, has to mark – unambiguously – the message as such. Users must be well aware that the message they receive is a commercial one and that they have received it without prior requirement because such messages are considered advertising, whether sent to a person directly or not.

Individual usage of information for direct access to the activities of the providers, their domain name or e-mail address, as well as information for the goods or services offered by the provider, collected independently (if information collection is not a paid service) are not considered commercial messages.

Spamming individuals, however, is forbidden. Following that logic, however, spamming companies is not banned.

To improve things Parliament assigned the Cabinet to approve a regulation for the creation of a register of companies that do not want to receive spam. Unfortunately, a year after the law was adopted, such a regulation still does not exist, neither does the register. The spam, on the other hand, still does.

The Law on Electronic Commerce has been in force since January 1 2007. It follows the EU regulations in the field – the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002. It was among the pride and joy of the Government that considered it well implemented. When the law provides for sanctions, there should be someone users can complain to. In this case it’s the Consumer Protection Commission (CPC). The law says that e-mail users, individuals who suffer spammers’ attacks, should complain before the CPC, which was designated as the controlling body for the spam-sending restrictions. The commission is a controlling body for a total of 11 regulations, but has only one telephone for consumers’ complaints.

As all EU member states introduced the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002, Bulgarian authorities can track the spammers, if they come from a EU country, cease the spam sending and impose a sanction on the provider of unrequested messages, after co-ordination with the controlling bodies of electronic commerce in the country concerned.

However, more often than not, reality is different. The spammer is usually based in Asia or America and cannot be sanctioned, even if the local controlling bodies co-operate for its location. In this case the commission can provide only technical help, i.e. anti-spam software.

Actually, no one has been fined for spamming as not a single complaint for spamming had been filed before the consumer protection commission by mid-February 2008. If any complaint was filed, the lack of a register would not prevent the commission taking necessary measures to track and fine the spammer, authorities promised.


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