Panel: Poland's new police law allows privacy infringement

AP News
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Posted: Jun 10, 2016 11:14 AM

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — An international human rights commission has criticized Poland's new law regulating police surveillance powers as leaving too much room for breaching the privacy of individuals.

The opinion released Friday by the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe's body of constitutional law experts, was the second criticism it has issued concerning policies of Poland's conservative government that took power in November.

The commission said that safeguards included in the law that took effect in February to increase police surveillance powers are "insufficient to prevent excessive use and unjustified interference with individual privacy."

The government argues that new threats to public security and high-level events, such as Pope Francis' visit and a NATO summit, both in July, require wider surveillance.

The commission said that traditional surveillance methods like wire-tapping, and new ones, like collecting data related to the use of internet and mobile phones, were areas where more oversight was needed by independent bodies of experts. The opinion was sought by the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly.

Some types of metadata, like weblogs, are so sensitive that authorization by a judge should be required for obtaining them, the commission argued.

For less sensitive data, subsequent oversight should be made possible, it said.

In March, the commission criticized Poland for effectively paralyzing the nation's top court, the Constitutional Tribunal, and said such actions could undermine the country's democracy, human rights and the rule of law. It urged Poland to find a quick solution to the stalemate, which, however, has not yet been found. The government insists on placing some judges of its choice on the panel, the opposition says that would be a breach of the constitution.

The commission can recommend solutions but has no enforcement powers.

The European Union has also warned of sanctions over changes in the composition and regulations governing the Constitutional Tribunal, which inhibit its ability to scrutinize — and potentially block — legislation backed by the government.