Legislative Reforms for Personal Data Protection and Net Neutrality

Personal data is any type of information that can be used to identify an individual. So, today its protection, especially in Internet, became imperious. There are number of personal data in various databases in this virtual space, which, in the sense of protection, are not always well-handled.  

According to the lawyer of “Grandlex” legal and business consulting company Mr. Movses Hakobyan, problems associated with personal data are global and any person in the Internet is vulnerable irrespective of the consciousness level and the applied technical security tricks. 

“Moreover, everyone has a right to have protected data. Citizens must be convinced that personal data is protected sufficiently both by law and in practice”, says Mr. Hakobyan.

He emphasizes that though many people often publish their personal data knowingly, such data must not be so open to the world through social media, e.g. placing photos of minor children, as well furnishing information on private events and data.

The chief of Personal Data Protection Agency of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia Mr. Gevorg Hayrapetyan also shares such observation of Mr. Movses Hakobyan. He says that absence of awareness and media literacy is often underlain in illegal acts carried with personal data, which, in its turn, may lead to little and major problems. 

“We can find a person who believes that some uncle from the far Nigeria left a million-dollar inheritance to the latter. The problem is that some people don’t realize the hazards threatening to their personal data in Internet”, says Mr. Hayrapetyan.

The users often think that having downloaded some personal photos and making them available in Internet they do nothing wrong. While the other one can take them, open fake profile and use them having actually stolen the identity of such user.

According to Mr. Hakobyan, due to availability of personal biometric data of other people, e.g., employees or customers, as well as transactions made by them, some people can make transactions on their behalf in the financial markets, may classify special working style and preferences of such people, and due to this they can offer some services.

“They can also sell the data to any marketing or commercial company, which, maybe, can have indirect influence on the decisions made by a person; moreover, it may pursue political agenda”, says Mr. Hakobyan.

He also states that people must be aware of where, to what extent and how their data shall be used and give their consent.  

According to the expert, the data collector and processor must keep these principles:

  • pursuance of legal goals for data usage;
  • usage of data as needed (e.g. the Service providing company through which the subscriber uses Internet, TV, needs to register some personal data of the subscriber in order to draw up an account against the services usage. It’s a presumed exception, which is made upon the service user consent);
  • data usage as little as possible.

In practice, many operators of telecommunication network and service providers collect data of information flow (traffic) and communication, which are not necessary for services rendering or may not be necessary for providing some services on demand.

Having considered such problems in online space, “Digital Agenda Initiative” was created in Armenia on May of the current year having aimed at development of online space-related policy which will guarantee proper protection of the digital rights and freedoms of the Armenians.

Within the shortest time period “Digital Agenda Initiative” has already developed legislative proposals related to RA Laws on “Personal Data Protection”, “Electronic Communication”, as well as Administrative Offences Code.

In particular, it is offered to make two supplements in RA Law on “Electronic Communication”, which will secure confidentiality and anonymity of subscribers while using electronic communication services, as well as realization of the net neutrality principle.

The first offered amendment is aimed at prevention from collection and preservation of data on information flow (traffic) and communication by service providers which are not necessary for rendering telecommunication services.

Usually, such data contain information on the subscribers’ behavior (information flows, location of subscribers, access hour/duration) and they may leak or become available to opponents, including to national and foreign intelligence services.

The second offered amendment is aimed at prevention from discrimination of services providing organizations against some type of traffic or content.

The authors of legislative amendment insist that there is no any net neutrality principle in the todays Telecommunication Legislation of Armenia, which is considered to be one of the key components of the Internet freedom.

The authority which regulates the communication sphere of Armenia undertook to keep net neutrality principle but no regulation, legal duty to the services providers has been established de jure. 

The offered amendment confirms that the services providing organizations must render services without any discrimination against any traffic type and protocol, except for cases when it is technically necessary and inevitable in case of definite types of services.

The package of the offered legislative amendments to RA Law on Electronic Communication” has already been presented to the National Assembly. It is not excluded that it will be discussed during the autumn session of the National Assembly.

Nevertheless, Movses Hakobyan states that even after adoption of legislative amendments the State can’t solve all these problems solely. With a purpose to minimize possible leakages of data and the hazards thereupon we need confidence-based cooperation between the State and private sector.

By Sofi Tovmasyan