Monday, April 6, 2009

Latvian government approves totalitarian surveillance

The Latvian government has approved and will pass on to the parliament (Saeima) a law allowing the Security Police, without a court order, to track people's location through their mobile phones, to get records of their conversations and SMS traffic, as well as to track e-mail correspondence and fixed-line phone traffic.
This was reported by the investigative TV show Nekā personīga (Nothing Personal) on TV3 on April 5. According to the reporter, the police will be able to ask for records that are at least 18 months old, but it is unclear whether the Security Police and other institutions, such as the Criminal Police, the State Revenue Service and the Bureau for the Protection of the Constitution (SAB) could be able to obtain real time data.
The law was drafted by the Security Police, which says it has no difficulty getting court orders for wiretapping and tracking mobile phone users.
The TV3 investigators said there had been cases of police authorities threatening to conduct searches of mobile operators who failed to comply (this prior to the law being proposed or passed). Legal experts contacted by TV3 said the draft law represented a violation of European human rights laws.
One wonders whether this legislation is aimed at flash mobs, the Penguin Movement and any activities using e-mail and SMS to organize protests and, yes, civil disobedience and ultimately, violence against government institutions.
There is still some hope that a domestic and international outcry could deter the Saeima from passing this law.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Latvian ombudsman denounces compulsory flag display

The Latvian human rights ombudsman has denounced the existing regulations in Riga making flag displays compulsory on private property as well as a proposal to simultaneous force display of the flag of the city of Riga.
Ombudsman Romāns Apsītis said such ordinances were a violation of European human rights law and the Latvian constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression.
Displaying the Latvian flag is compulsory on many holidays as well as during certain state visits. Private property owners have been fined for failure to display the flag as well as improper display (without black mourning ribbons on certain days) and other technical violations (wrong color flagpole, timing, hanging the flag from a broomstick).
The proposal by the Riga City Council (Mayor Jānis Birks) in order to "boost morale and a sense of community" is a classic example of why Latvia's politicians are often complete, provincial idiots.
Burn a Riga flag for freedom!