Polish senate approves Internet surveillance law

Poles protest against the new law in Gdansk on Jan 23, 2016.
Poles protest against the new law in Gdansk on Jan 23, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

WARSAW (AFP) - Poland's senate on Friday approved a controversial amendment making it easier for the secret service and police to access Internet data, stoking concerns about the state of democracy in the EU member.

The new measure will notably give the police direct permanent access to a whole host of metadata regarding the online activity of Poles. The police will no longer have to ask Internet service providers for access each time.

It is the latest controversial step taken by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party conservatives since they swept back to power in October after eight years in opposition.

New laws giving the government control over Poland's top court, the prosecutor's office and public broadcasters have prompted a series of demonstrations and harsh criticisms both at home and across Europe.

The EU recently launched an unprecedented probe into whether the Polish government is violating the bloc's democracy rules and merits punitive measures.

According to the ruling party, Friday's amendment includes limits on how the police can use the Internet data and for how long.

But the opposition expressed concern over the lack of judicial oversight under the amendment approved by 56 senators, while 28 voted against and three abstained.

The measure was also denounced by the inspector-general for personal data protection, the Polish ombudsman, lawyers and non-profit organisations.

Critics fear that the amendment will lead to the exploitation of information subject to professional secrecy in law, journalism, medicine and other fields.