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ENDitorial: Everyone can eavesdrop in Macedonia

14 January, 2009

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

Eavesdropping devices that are being sold through adverts are mostly used by pupils for cheating at their school exams, and by men who doubt their wives' fidelity.

"Hey, let's meet, we should not discuss this over the phone." This sentence has long been used among friends, colleagues and relatives, but today, if something important is to be discussed, the sentence would rather be "Let me whisper something to you, but check your ear first".

Today, the technologies for communications monitoring and recording conversations are so advanced, practically unnoticeable, and easily available - they can be bought through an advert for only 250 denars! This equipment surely cannot help you hear about the next mischief Greece is planning to do, but you can at least hear the crying baby in another room, catch your wife with the neighbour or cheat at most of the exams at the faculty or in high school.

An electronics technician from Skopje who is selling these devices has had a very unpleasant experience with the victims of his clients. He insisted that we do not publish his name.

I'm only making these devices, and I am not responsible for how people are using them. My "bug" has a range of 50 meters, and the recording can also be heard on a mobile phone. It is recording excellent on an FM-radiofrequency, except when waves from the radio stations in Skopje are causing interference - he says, while showing us the small transmitter.

For commercial purposes, the name of his firm is on the package of the transmitter. This is how the problems started for the technician.

"A teacher from a school in Skopje called me. I could feel the anger in his voice. He caught his students cheating during an exam by using my "bug". What can I say; I am not encouraging children to do this. I also explained to him that there are also other young electronics technicians, who are manufacturing transmitters" he said.

Let me be clear, I am not selling these devices so that they could be abused. Some people are using my "bugs" to discover marital infidelities. Sometimes people are calling me, as if I had placed the device. I want these devices to be used for noble purposes, so that mothers could hear their babies crying, for instance. I am even prepared to give one of my bugs to each mother with twins, he added.

The devices of the Macedonian electronics technician are just part of the technological array of devices that can be used for eavesdropping. Almost all of the mobile phones have voice recorders. The new voice recorders are so small that they can be hidden in one's sleeve. eBay and other websites are selling mobile phones worth up to 1,000 euros that can be used to eavesdrop on other mobile phones. Hacker websites on the internet are offering small programs for free, that can be sent via e-mail, that are afterwards sending back usernames and passwords of the email's user to the original sender. The list is quite long. There are even so called "spy shops" in the USA.

With the amendments of the Law on communications monitoring it is projected that private companies would also be able to purchase, sell and use communications monitoring equipment, having obtained prior authorization from the Ministry of Interior. This mostly applies for the security agencies and detectives.

We don't have any communications monitoring equipment. To be honest, some of our clients have required this from us but we have not done it - say the employees of the security agency "Branitel" from Skopje. Other security agencies gave us the same answer.

The people from the Ministry of Interior say that, so far, nobody has submitted a request for purchase, since the commission responsible for reviewing such requests is still being formed.

There is still no commission or body with the role of controlling the usage of this equipment, neither in the state institutions, nor in the private companies.

So far, a more efficient system for controlling these eavesdropping devices has not been established. Someone from the authorities should explain how these devices are being controlled. Nobody informed us how much money has been spent for purchasing communications monitoring equipment. This is an opportunity for any kind of abuse. Now, by providing private companies with the opportunity to use such equipment, the abuse will not only be political. The ones that adopted this law will eventually become its victims as well - says professor Slagjana Taseva.

Officials from the Directorate for Personal Data Protection emphasize that it is necessary to take into consideration the method of usage of the personal data collected in the process of eavesdropping.

The citizens must know that according to the Law on communications, a court warrant is required for such an activity. As for the ones that are selling various devices through advertisements, they should know that this is illegal - says Marijana Marushik, director of the DPDP.

Nevertheless, it seems that nothing can stop mass eavesdropping on communications.

Original article - newspaper Nova Makedonija (only in Macedonian, 29.12.2008)

(contribution by Aleksandar Bozhinovski - Nova Makedonija)



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