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Has privacy in Serbia been compromised?

Conference „Freedom and Reforms“ captured the question of privacy in our society as well. It was moderated by Đorđe Krivokapić from SHARE Fo...
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Conference „Freedom and Reforms“ captured the question of privacy in our society as well. It was moderated by Đorđe Krivokapić from SHARE Foundation, who posed a question to participants whether there is any point investing in protection of privacy in Serbia, should we expect from the state to draw a precise line between public and private, and whether power still remains on the opposite side of privacy protection?

Oliver Subotić, manager of Center for Study and Use of Modern Technologies at Serbian Orthodox Church said that privacy as a concept evolved since 19. century when it was, for the first time, defined as right of an individual to be left in peace. „Today there is a debate on whether privacy belongs with primary rights or is it a derivate of one of those rights. In what way can we defend privacy in a time when nature of oversight has changed? Subjects of oversight and technology of oversight have changed. This is a network of heterogenic knots that collect data on several ways, a very complex matrix. Old paradygm of Foucault’s panopticon has been overcome, today through electronic digital technology we have routine oversight in all segments of society“, stated Subotić and added that he believes that modern man has, for noncritical relation to technology and influence of media, given up on privacy. „Regulatory part of state in defence of privacy is needed, but not sufficient. Response must be as polycentric as is the network of oversight. Civil associations are the most important knots in the battle for privacy matrix. Academic institutions that would build culture of privacy are also important, as well as institution of the Commissioner office. It is necessary to work on technical solutions for individual users so that they can be protected effectively“, concluded Subotić.

Representative of Belgrade Center for Security Policy, Marko Milošević, addressed the question of who and why accesses private data of citizens. „It is extremely important that plates of security and privacy are balanced. In the 21st century we have a phenomena of privatization of security on which regulation is incomplete and insufficient. Police, BIA and VBA are main actors that collect data on persons. In Serba there are around 600 registered firms for security and around 100 detective agencies. They do not need a court order for gathering data. That is why a good judicial framework is needed as well as implementation, said Milošević and noticed that parliamentary control, through the Board for Security and Control of Agencies, is weak and PM’s are uninformed. „Internal oversight is also weak in some organs, such as police – uniformed members are under scrutiny but not civilians or Minister“, added Milošević.

Uroš Mišljenović from „Partners for Democratic Change Serbia“ mentioned the research whose conlusion is that even after five years of adopting the laws most of mandatories are not familiar with their obligations. „One of the worst answers was provided by Faculty of Law University of Belgrade. Measures of data protection by the public sector were also researched. Results are equally poor“, said Mišljenović.

Assistant of Secretary General to the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, Nevena Ružić, praised in particular Meho Omerović, MP, for taking a stand in questions of privacy during debates in the Assembly and questioned the relation to personal data: „How can the state protect a individual in voluntary transaction where she uses personal data as currency? This is against liberal principles. It is the main difference and point of conflict: is the individual owner of data so that he can do with them what he pleases, or the state can protect his data in spite of him“. Ružić presented two differing concepts: concept of consumer right to privacy, growing more present in the USA, and concept of basic human right to privacy, that is more present in Europe. „European concept is much more simpler to implement as it presents a positive obligation of the state to act through inependent bodies to protect personal data, and those bodies have the right to interfere in spite of individual wishes“, concluded Ružić.

Milica Jovanović from the web portal „Peščanik“ stated that problem of privacy is above all a political problem. „Media are in a dangerous rift in states such as Serbia, where data from police investigations appears on front pages of tabloids, which shows some serious security lapses. Society lacks an expert debate on what is being gathered and why. Here data are being collected in order to enable manipulation and spin off political adversaries. In US and Europe data are collected in order to make informed decisions concerning foreign and domestic policies“, assessed Jovanović.