NGOs call to dismiss the intelligence services’ plan to install any kind of surveillance equipment at the facilities of Internet providers, as they believe it will cause excessive control and intervention into the operation of the Internet by law enforcement and control agencies of the government.
On February 20, 2018, the National Commission for regulation of spheres of communication and IT approved the draft Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers, which is supposed to regulate technical monitoring of blocking of the websites from the sanction list. The draft provides for “securing the purchase of equipment… to monitor the status of termination of services of access to information resources…” and the State Service of Special Communications, in cooperation with the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), is expected “to install the said equipment at telecommunication networks”.
The equipment, which is declared to be installed to monitor whether Internet providers actually limit access to websites from the sanctions list based on Presidential Decree No.133/2017, can be illegally and uncontrollably used for unsanctioned surveillance over the actions of citizens online, for manipulation over access to information on the Internet (limitations, blocking, or making changes in the content), and for other violations of human rights. In addition, the monitoring agencies never published description of the specifications of such equipment, and this opens way for even more potential abuse.
Decisions like this create preconditions for implementing Russian repressive practices of mass Internet control and surveillance over citizens, and endanger freedom and free development of the Internet in Ukraine.
In modern world, limitation of access to websites is not an effective solution technology-wise. Still, we understand the necessity to seek solutions by both the authorities and civil society to counteract the external threats.
We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations, demand to recall the draft Decree, and to proceed within the limits of the governmental agency’s powers, in compliance with the international and national legislation regarding protection of human rights.
According to Article 32 of the Constitution of Ukraine, no one must be subjected to intervention to his or her personal and family life, except for the cases stipulated by the Constitution of Ukraine. Article 34 of the Constitution of Ukraine guarantees that the right to freedom of opinion and speech, to free expression of one’s opinions and beliefs, and freedom to collect and disseminate information can be limited only in cases stipulated by the law, and only for a legitimate reason. Article 10 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms adds that such limitations can be implemented only if they are necessary in a democratic society. Installation of equipment for general surveillance and/or interception of information on the Internet is in direct contradiction to Recommendation CM/Rec(2014)6 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, according to which “the very existence of legislation permitting surveillance of telecommunications may be considered as an interference with the right to private life” (Article 82).
The Internet Association of Ukraine also pointed out some terminological and legislative inconsistencies in the draft Decree in question.
Digital Security Lab Ukraine
Human Rights Platform
Digital Defenders Partners
Human Rights Information Centre
National Union of Journalists of Ukraine
Donetsk Institute of Information
Donbas Public TV
Institute of Mass Information
Academy of Ukrainian Press
Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law
Regional Press Development Institute
Center for Civil Liberties