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'Big Brother' law under attack

A NEW law allowing Romanian authorities access to information about citizens' phone calls and e-mail sparked widespread criticism yesterday that it is reminiscent of the surveillance practised by the country's former regime.

According to the new law, telecom companies must record and store for six months information such as dates and numbers of phone calls. In March, the addresses of e-mails will also be stored under the same law. Authorities can request the stored information after a person is indicted for a crime with court approval.

Authorities said the contents of conversations and e-mails will not be recorded and the data will help in the investigation of serious crimes and terrorism. But opponents fear that it might be abused.

By yesterday, more than 5,000 Romanians had signed an online petition demanding the law be scrapped.

Director of democracy advocacy group Transparency International Victor Alistar said the law could lead to a reduction in freedom. Daily Romania Libera called it the "Big Brother" law.

"Prosecutors and intelligence services will use the data ... according to their own rules and regulations," the paper said.

Senate leader Mircea Geoana acknowledged the law could cause "fear or suspicion that it could be used as a tool to consolidate authoritarian tendencies."


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