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II. Surveillance policy

Communications surveillance

In November 2005, Law 19.423 added new provisions to the Penal Code related to the protection of the private life. Under this law, the collection of information by recording, wiretapping, or other secretive means, is prohibited. Such surveillance may be conducted in narcotics-related cases upon the issuance of a judicial order.1

In January 2004, Law No. 19.927 was enacted.2 It establishes sanctions for the distribution, disclosure, importation and exportation of child pornography materials; it also increases the penalties and creates new powers for the Public Prosecutor (Fiscal del Ministerio Público), justices and police officers to enable them to intercept or wiretap all kinds of telecommunications and pursuant to a judicial order.

In December 2004, a regulatory order3 provided that ministries that use electronic communications must keep records of all their communications for at least six years.4 The order does not give details about the meaning of "records." The regulatory order is not clear whether it mandates that public entities keep records only about traffic data or electronic communication content, too.

In November 2005, in the context of the fight against child pornography, a Congressman introduces a bill that would force Internet Cafés to keep records of the personal information of their clients, including ID card numbers, the computer they used for verifying the IP address, the date of use and the length of time the service was hired.5

In July 2006 a bill that proposed the reform of the Criminal and the Criminal Procedure Code was introduced into the Lower House.6 The bill grants more preventive powers to Law Enforcement Forces (Fuerzas del Orden y Seguridad), proposing the creation of a unified and updated database with personal data of individuals detained or with pending detention orders. The database would be maintained by the Chilean Investigations Police (Policia de Investigaciones de Chile) and the militarized national police force (Carabineros de Chile) for the exclusive use of the Chilean Investigations Police. This information would include photos, fingerprints, physical characteristics and other information deemed useful for effective crime prevention.

Chile's transition to democratic rule in 1990 did not eliminate personal privacy violations by government agencies. The Investigations Police - a plainclothes civilian agency that functions in close collaboration with the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) and with the intelligence services of the army, navy, and air force - keeps records of all adult citizens and foreign residents and issues identification cards that must be carried at all times.7 The personal data compiled during military rule was never destroyed. In January 1998, former dictator General Augusto Pinochet threatened to use "compromising information" from secret military intelligence files against those who were trying to keep him from becoming a Senator for Life, a position that would provide immunity from civil suits and public accountability for crimes that took place during his dictatorship.8 Under current law, the voter registration list is publicly disclosed and used for direct marketing purposes. In 1999, the United Nations Human Rights Committee criticized the requirement that hospitals report all women who receive abortions.9

A 1996 privacy law sets penalties for those who infringe on the private and public life of individuals and their families. The privacy law has never been applied to the media.10


  • 1.
  • 2.  Law 19.927, January 12, 2004, modifies the Penal Code, the Code of Penal Procedure (Código Procesal Penal) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (Código de Procedimientos Penales).
  • 3. A regulatory order is an administrative order given by the Minister General Secretary of the President.
  • 4.
  • 5.  Proyecto que Establece Obligación de Mantener Registro de sus Clientes a Establecimientos Comerciales que Ofrecen Servicios de Internet [Bill that Establishes the Obligation of Businesses that Offer Internet Services to Keep a Clients Register], Bulletin 4043-07. This bill started its procedure at the Lower House on November 9, 2005.
  • 6.
  • 7. Chile: A Country Report, 1994: United States Library of Congress.
  • 8. "Chile''s Ex-Dictator Tries to Dictate His Future Role," The New York Times, February 1, 1998.
  • 9. Human Rights Committee Consideration of Chile's Fourth Periodic report, March 25, 1999.
  • 10.