Personal Data Protection Service Says Regulatory Clarifications are Necessary in the Agents’ Law

On May 19, the Personal Data Protection Service of Georgia issued a statement that stopped short of saying that the foreign agent’s law goes contrary to the personal data protection legislation but implies serious shortfalls in this regard. The Service said the government needs to adopt regulations to rectify these shortfalls.

Noting that Article 2 of the law “clearly defines that the entity carrying out the interests of a foreign power is only a legal entity,” the statement says that “separate norms of the draft law contain a record on the processing of personal (including special category) data.” It proceeds to remark that for the processing of personal data to be legal, it must meet the requirements of the Law “On Personal Data Protection,” which provides for appropriate security measures for handling the data and should not infringe on the citizen’s rights enshrined in that law.

The Personal Data Protection Service then remarks that “therefore, it is appropriate to regulate the data processing processes […] through specific legal acts developed by the Ministry of Justice of Georgia,’ which implies – but does not directly state – that the law “On transparency of foreign influence” as adopted does not meet the criteria set out by the Law “On personal data protection.”

Although Georgian Dream claimed that the law only affects legal entities, on May 17, it was revealed that the law indirectly affects individual citizens, with the amendment included in the final version of the bill and approved in the third reading by the Georgian Dream majority. Thus, all citizens who have any kind of connection with non-governmental organizations, or media face the obligation to submit any kind of information, including confidential information and special categories of personal data as defined by the law “Personal Data Protection,” if requested by the authorized representative of the Ministry of Justice. The failure to provide such information is penalized by the fine of 5.000 GEL (around 1,800 USD).

Other issues

The statement also refers to other matters related to the foreign agent’s law that are under the Service’s purview.

  • Regarding the threatening phone calls that government critics and protest activists received, the Service said it had requested the mobile operators to provide information about the affiliation of specific phone numbers and the communications made through them.
  • Regarding the incriminating database on opponents of the law announced by Speaker Shalva Papuashvili on May 8, the Service said that since no such database exists yet, it can not prejudge the legality of personal information processing. It added that if such a database were to be created, “persons responsible for data processing” should be guided by the norms contained in the Law of Georgia “On Protection of Personal Data.”

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