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Internet Control in Georgia

November 17, 2010
Tamar Chkheidze,

The private e-mails, chats, open and closed conversations in internet will be accessible for investigative structures according to the new law amendment.

According to the amendments made into the Law on the Operative-Investigative Activity, the communication companies are obligated to ensure the availability of private information for the investigation.

The communication companies that Netgazeti spoke with say that they will act according to the law.

The amendment to the Law on Operative-Investigative Activity was made on September 24th. According to the changes, the investigative structures will be authorized to have access to the physical lines of communication, mail servers, bases, networks of communications.

Though the amendment has gone into force for more than a month now, very few people had information about its operation.

OSCE representative in the matters of media freedom, Dunia Miatovich received information on the corresponding law from Netgazeti. She said that the freedom of word and expression is often restricted in the name of national security: “This is very important topic and the main thing is that this law that might be protecting us from cyber crime and acts of terrorism should not limit the freedom of expression.”

Miatichov said that the most important thing is to have maximal transparency in these kinds of matters: “If this law really exists, it’s necessary to make it maximally transparent and not all the investigators should be authorized to see whatever they want.”

“The Monitoring of Internet Communications – Observing the Open and Closed Internet Communications in the Global Information Network (Internet) – is the right given to investigation services.

On the permission of court or in case of urgent necessity, as it happens in regards with the telephone listening, the investigators of the relevant departments of Ministry of Justice and the officials of operative agency are given right to control electronic information.

“Till now, the control on skype conversation was the accessible for operative officials. This law did not envisage the access to the internet resources and revelation of crime,” – states the lawyer Eka Khutsishvili.
She states the essence of changes is connected to the revelation of cyber crime. Though, according to him, the crime does not necessarily need to be of computational nature to give the investigator right to access the information.

“If there is no access to the mail server, then it should happen after agreement with the providers. This is written in the law to obligate the administrator to collaborate with the investigation,” – states Khutsishvili.

The companies Silknet, ITDC and Caucasus Online stated while talking with Netgazeti, that they will cooperate with the investigation and fulfill their any request that complies with the law.

The law authorizes the investigative bodies to request the following information from the communication companies:

“Obtaining and fixation of information from the communication channels and computer system. The installation of the relevant means for ensuring the relevant programs in the computer system; the control of postal and telegraph parcels (except for the diplomatic post).”

Majority of the private e-mails and social networks in which Georgian citizens are registered, is not Georgian, for example: yahoo, gmail, facebook, twitter and etc.. which are actively used in Georgia. Controlling these sources is difficult for Georgian investigative structures.

As for the Georgian sites,,, – in this case the investigation has a right to have an access to the private information on the users.

If in case of investigative services, in case of the suspicion and relevant court permission, it will be hard to have access to facebook, yahoo and gmail, Georgian forums and posts are easily accessible.

However, the lawyer Eka Khutsishvili states that there is an international criminal law, according to which, the collaboration can take place with the investigative bodies of other states.

But even in case of collaboration with the investigative services of other states, the abovementioned companies do not issue the information. One of the reasons for this is that the existing legislations do not oblige them to work with the investigation.

In the USA, the bill was drawn out in 2009 according to which the investigation bodies would have been authorized to control the internet. Ultimately, the bill was not adopted by the Senate. The debates are continuing till today.

The supporters of bill state that in order to avoid the acts of terrorism and cyber crimes, it is necessary that this type of law exists. Some think that this law is dangerous.

One of the representatives of the democracy and technology center, Greg Noyem openly stated that the adoption of this law means the violation of the privacy act.

Famous social network facebook has its privacy act according to which, the information can’t be issued for the third party.

Valeri Naskidashvili, the specialist of informational technologies states that it depends on the concrete companies whether they can issue private information of the use to the third party.

This covers both the mails and private chats of social networks.

Naskidashvili states that the possibility that the company can give information to the third party exists but all the above mentioned companies refuse to issue the private information of theirs users.

However, there are cases when the companies collaborated with the investigation. For example, the RMI network of United Arab Emirates had been turned off for several days as the special services wanted to find the code key.

Valeri names three possible means for access to the information.

1. If you demonstrated information and indicated it in the social network as your status;

2. If your private password is not well protected;
3. If the company secretly transferred your private information to the third party.

But there is another case when the obtained information can’t be used as an evidence since it is not considered legal.

The lawyer Khutsishvili states that the investigation service needs the permission of the judge to implement the actions envisaged by the articles of the corresponding law. However, he states that in case of the urgent necessity, the investigation service has a right to implement this action and then during 24 hours present it to the court where he can prove that this action was evoked by the urgent necessity.

On the question whether there is certain danger regarding the urgent necessity, the lawyer states: “Generally, this does not create any danger in legislative level because it is possible that certain action is caused by the urgent necessity. And plus, there is relevant practice. The investigator needs to prove well that in case of being late, the information won’t be accessible.”