Can special services get access to Belarusians' private mail?
"They can request information, but according to the law, if the collection of information affects the constitutional rights of citizens, including the right to privacy of correspondence, such requests may only be processed if allowed by a prosecutor," explains lawyer, director of "Reliable Software" Lyudmila Chekina .
The requests concerning mail-enabled users indeed come from law enforcement authorities. The Yandex office in Belarus and the portal tut.by receive them.
"We do not give access to the mail. In our case it is technically impossible, as the server is at Google. And such requests to us have not been reported. I think the law enforcement agencies do not need to deal with such requests to providers. They have their own ways of working . More often, there come requests for the IP-addresses from which the access was done, and the data specified in the registration."
The special services can require certain information under Claim 6 of the Decree number 60: "Internet service providers are required to carry out the identification of subscriber units in the provision of Internet services, recording and storage of data on the subscriber units, as well as evidence of online services that have been provided."
Recently, Microsoft has first told about the requests of the government agencies. It turned out that among them there were 5 requests of the Belarusian security forces, who asked Microsoft about 35 Skype accounts. In this case, all requests concerned only general information about the users and did not affect the content (photographs, correspondence).
Requests come to the Yandex office in Minsk as well. They concern the information about the owners of the mailbox. However, they are redirected to Moscow to be considered there. Both companies say that the requests come in the framework of an already started criminal case and are approved by the prosecutor.
"There is a law which allows making requests for the collection of evidence without the criminal prosecution , but I have not experienced this in practice," Lyudmila Chekina says.
However, according to the same Law Enforcement Operations Act, if there is a suspicion, it is legal to demand access to an e-mail even without a criminal case.
"This seizure is carried out only with the approval of the prosecutor if the case is already initiated or preparation of a felony has been reported. Another thing is that there is a system when the security services can monitor the situation without the provider so that the provider does not even know who and what they are interested in. Today, such a system functions. They can get all the information that they need in the operational plan, without the provider, " says human rights activist Harry Pahanyaila.
So, why requesting providers then?
"In some cases, it needs to be fixed officially, such is a procedural issue for the court, and then they makes a request," Pahanyaila says.
If the request is not made in the framework of a criminal case, it should be grounded and the necessary arguments must be presented.
"If the prosecutor does so on the basis of the law, he would require all the necessary documentation and will not authorize it just mindlessly, " adds Harry Pahanyaila.
According to the law, anyone who suspects that investigative actions are conducted against him can make a complaint to the prosecutor or the court, to check the legality of such actions. The investigators in the court will have to prove that they did not interfere into his private life, or interfered, but legally.
The Belarusian secret services cannot get access to Skype, because there is no agreement on mutual legal assistance between us and the United States. The experts say that 99% of the intelligence agencies have access to the personal data of the users through negligence. Euroradio conducted an experiment so it became clear that if you want to get Skype password from a Belarusian - just ask!
The legislation that allows supervision of citizens on the Internet exists in many countries. For example, the United States, after the September 11 attacks, adopted the "Patriot Act" (USA PATRIOT Act). In the UK, the "Investigatory Powers Regulation Act", which regulates the ability to supervise the Internet and intercept emails and messages in the interests of the national security.