Uruguayan Court Denies Access on Surveillance

7 May 2015

A Uruguayan court has denied access to basic information about “The Guardian,” a surveillance program instituted by the Uruguayan government.

The case was brought by the Center for Archives and Access to Public Information (Centro de Archivos y Acceso a la Información Pública) and rejected in an April 23 court ruling (in Spanish).

CAinfo requested a copy of a protocol developed by the Interior Ministry aimed at telecommunications companies for the implementation of electronic surveillance.

In its ruling, the Court held that the information requested is “clearly covered by secrecy,” according an account on CAinfo website.

The ruling held that The Guardian is an instrument to fight crime and that public dissemination of their strengths and weaknesses could thwart its use for that task, leaving it vulnerable to hackers.

CAinfo and the Institute for Legal and Social Studies of Uruguay (IELSUR) have said the lawsuit was not intended to obtain technical details that would render it vulnerable. Instead, the goal was to help answer public policy questions such as what the protocol says regarding the custody of the information available to telecommunications companies and how citizen privacy will be protected.

“The arguments offered by the government are very close to the concept of `secret law,’ which has not place in a democratic regime such as Uruguay,” according to Fabrizio Scrollini, Chairman of DATA Uruguay, which attempted to file an amicus brief in the case, which the court said wasn’t allowed. He recently wrote about the need for a human rights framework to tackle issues related to the use of surveillance technologies in Latin America (here).

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