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HRW: Guinea must protect telephone privacy

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday sent a letter [text] to Guinea Prime Minister Mamady Youla, urging him to ensure that any government oversight on telecommunications respects individual privacy. On January 6, 2016, the Autorité de Régulation des Postes et Télécommunications (APRT) [official website, in French], Guinea's telecommunications regulator, sent a letter to the nation's four major mobile phone companies informing them of the government's intent to oversee "revenues of service traffic." ARPT justified its decision citing tax assessment purposes, but HRW fears the nation may go further. HRW Senior Internet Researcher Cynthia Wong stated [press release], "[w]hile governments should be able to enforce tax regulations, they shouldn't do that in a way that impinges on the right to privacy. The ARPT shouldn't put in place any system that gives them access to customers' sensitive personal information." The rights group is calling for judicial supervision and specific justification when the government seeks to use its new system to monitor communication.

Surveillance and data collection have been worldwide topics of discussion, particularly after Edward Snowden leaked top-secret [JURIST report] US National Security Agency (NSA) documents in 2013. Last month, thousands of people in Poland protested [JURIST report] the government's planned changes to a certain law that would increase its surveillance over Polish citizens. In earlier January, US-based tech companies Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo submitted evidence [JURIST report] of possible conflicts that may arise from the UK government's proposed Investigatory Powers Bill, noting that the bulk data collections required by the bill will have an international impact. In December China passed a new anti-terrorism law [JURIST report] that requires technology companies to provide information to the government obtained from their products and make information systems "secure and controllable." In October the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied [JURIST report] a motion by the American Civil Liberties Union to halt the bulk collection of phone records by the NSA. The court ruled that Congress intended for the agency to continue its data collection over the transition period, and the new legislation was to take effect November 29. In August the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed [JURIST report] a ruling that had blocked the NSA from obtaining call detail records from US citizens.

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