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April 15 – April 21, 2024
Security issues

Security Forces Establish a System of Intense Surveillance Over Belarusians

The situation got worse
Security Forces Establish a System of Intense Surveillance Over Belarusians
Photo: elements.envato.com

The regime is intensifying surveillance over its own citizens. For this purpose, the security forces are creating special information systems that collect personal data and other information about Belarusians. The establishment of this super-surveillance network aims to identify disloyal individuals.

The House of Representatives passed in the second reading a bill amending the “Law on the Investigative Committee.” Once signed by Lukashenka, investigators will have unrestricted access to personal data of Belarusians.

Previously, employees of the Investigative Committee (IC) already had the right to request and receive information free of charge from government bodies necessary for fulfilling the tasks assigned to the department.

Now, the IC will be able to obtain information from information systems containing personal data without the consent of individuals and will also have access to this information, including remote access.

The law continues a practice that was established in October 2022. At that time, Lukashenka signed a decree allowing operational-search bodies to demand from telecommunications service providers and owners of Internet resources to create an electronic interaction system with the security forces. Its purpose is to transmit data online from servers located in Belarus or operating in the country. Data from users of online stores, delivery services, taxis, and other resources must be fed into this system. Moreover, if a server or other equipment is not technically suitable for connection to the unified system, the owner must upgrade it at their own expense. Services that refuse to install surveillance can be blocked in Belarus, as previously happened with Facebook in Russia.

The newly created “Digital Development Center,” formerly the Institute of Applied Software Systems at the Ministry of Communications, is responsible for creating and maintaining the functionality of this system by Lukashenka’s order. The enterprise “BelGIE” has been appointed as the owner and operator of the system.

De facto, the security forces have always had such access. However, the information that operatives can obtain needs to be formally legalized—explained to the investigation and the court where it came from. This is the purpose of the new provisions.

The surveillance system created by the security forces also allows for the interception of calls from mobile and landline phones, as well as spying through routers—devices through which users access the internet.

On August 29, 2023, Lukashenka also signed a decree on measures to counteract unauthorized payment operations. Thanks to this document, from March 1, 2024, the security forces gained super access to information about the payments of Belarusians. For this purpose, the National Bank created a special automated system for incident processing (ASOI). It includes information about unauthorized payment operations and attempts to conduct them. Meanwhile, the National Bank determines the specific information that payment service providers (e.g., banks) must submit to ASOI. Known to include banking secrets, this data involves information about unauthorized transfers (including electronic money) and suspicious payments, as well as personal data contained in the incident information.

Access to ASOI has been granted to the Prosecutor’s Office, the State Security Committee, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Investigative Committee, and the Operational Analytical Center under the President. By decision of the Prosecutor General’s Office, the KGB, IC, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs can suspend expenditure operations on a bank account, deposit, or electronic wallet for up to 10 days if law enforcement has data or merely suspects “the commission of unlawful acts.” In simpler terms, even if the security forces suspect that “unlawful acts” could have been committed through an account, they can block it for up to 10 days.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.
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