Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Law 298/2008 Starts Monitoring Us Today

In November 2008 the Romanian Parliament passed a law which regulates the ‘retaining of data generated or processed by electronic communications service providers’. This law becomes active today, 20 January 2009.

Law 298/2008 states that all telephone services providers have the obligation to keep records of ALL phone calls and text messages sent through them for a period of 6 months. (Data includes details on the call itself, as well as the identity and location of both caller and receiver). Starting with the 15 March 2009, the same data will be ‘retained’ by all Internet services providers, meaning all e-mails, browsing, search and any other Internet activity will be monitored (date and time of log in and log out, location and identity of user, IP, identity of sender and receiver of e-mails, etc.).

The full text of this law can be found here: http://www.avocatnet.ro/content/articles?id=13906

This law surely has us thinking of Orwell’s ‘1984’ and is yet another step towards a Big Brother society. But we said the same thing about CCTV until we realised crime can be prevented with its aid, or at least criminals brought to justice. The Government will always claim that such information will only be used for the better good and will not be abused in any way. It will also claim that law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear. If you have nothing to hide, why would such a law bother you?

The question is: are we willing to trade our privacy for a potentially safer society? And do we trust our government to use the information to our benefit rather than against us?


  1. now this is totally wrong, and I mean the conclusion you have quickly jumped to, please read the law text more carefully, it says nothing about the content being recorded, can you imagine the logistics involved for the six months period, all operators would go bankrupt. Unfortunately, it is just a case of media misleading the public.

  2. Digital Hoobit, you are right.
    The law doesn't refer to the _content_ of phone calls or e-mails.
    However, I find it hard to believe that the government is only interested (in the hypothetical case of a court trial) in the identity of the caller and the time of call, for instance. I ask myself what purpose would that serve, if not to point 'invetigators' to the right conversation?
    In any case, I understand this is not the initiative of the Romanian government, but a Directive of the European Union, already transposed into law throughout the member countries. Which doesn't make it any less stupid.