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III. Privacy issues

The General Telecommunications Act protects the secrecy and inviolability of communications.1 The Act establishes that the communications, information and data dispatched through telecommunications services are secret and inviolable with the exception of judicial intervention according to common law, and the provisions of special laws. The telecommunications public service providers must protect the mentioned inviolability, but will not be responsible for violations committed by users or third parties without the provider‚ participation, fault or omission.

Article 337 of the Criminal Code criminalizes the intentional violation of personal private life through the capturing, recording or transmission, without the authorization of the person involved, of words or images that have been performed in a private way and place.2
Article 190 of the Criminal Procedure Code allows the seizure of mail dispatched or received by a defendant of a criminal act upon judicial order. In the same way, Article 192 allows the interception of communications, messages, data, images and sounds by any means of a defendant of a criminal act if the provisions and guarantees established by law are observed.3
A preliminary bill of the new Criminal Code of the Dominican Republic, would criminalize purposeful attacks on the "right of private life, capturing, registering or transmitting, without the consent of the victim, words pronounced in private or confidentially; setting up, registering or transmitting the image of a person located in a private place, without his/her consent"; as well as the disclosure "to the general public or a third party, any register obtained according to the former article". It also penalizes "opening, suppressing, delaying or distracting mail or private documents, arrived or not to its destination and addressed to a third party; or take notice through fraud of that mail or private documents, or the interception, distraction, use, or disclosure of mail or private documents issued, transmitted or received via telecommunications; or proceed to the installation of devices conceived to perform those interceptions" in bad faith.4
In the same way, those who intercept "intentionally and with illegal purposes, transmissions of private data from, through or targeted to a computer or telecommunications system, or of the electromagnetic emissions broadcasted by them"; or the act of "erasing, copying, mutilating, diverting, editing, altering or eliminating current data in computer systems or transmitted through these or through a telecommunication system" would also be penalized.5 Similarly, individuals trustees of public authority or in charge of a public service, or his/her dependants, or auxiliaries" may not "order, perform or facilitate, beside the cases provided by the law, the distraction, suppression or opening of mail or disclosure of the contents of them".6
The High Technology Offenses and Crimes Act Article 19 makes it an offense to "use, without legitimate cause or authorization of the competent legal organization, electronic, computer, telecommunications systems or devices that could serve to perform operations against privacy in any of its forms.7 Article 9 sanctions "the act of intercepting, tapping, modifying, stopping, spying, listening, deviating, recording, or monitoring by any mean a signal, a data or a signal transmission belonging to another person with illegal intentions by him/herself or order by someone else, without the authorization of the competent judge, from, through or directed to an electronic, computer, telematic or telecommunications system or of emissions originated by them, committing voluntary or involuntary the violation of the secrecy and the privacy of the natural and juridical person."
The Regulation of Judicial Authorization for the Electronic Monitoring and Interception of Communications issued by the Supreme Court of Justice aims to ensure "the effective fulfillment of the constitutional guarantees in relation to the secrecy of communications." It also establishes that the interception must be absolutely necessary for the collection of evidence in a criminal investigation.8  The interception of communications of an individual will only be authorized when there are justified reasons to damage "the privacy of the secrecy of communications" and when the judicial authorities evaluated this measure.
Resolution Nº 36-00 penalizes illegal telecommunications interceptions in the Dominican Republic.9 This Resolution creates the Dominican Institute of Telecommunications (Instituto Dominicano de Telecomunicaciones) (INDOTEL) that is the governing body of the telecommunications in the Dominican Republic. This institute issues penalties to any individual that participates in a direct or indirect way in the modification, interception, intervention, reception, entrusting, permission, spying, tapping, without judicial order, of any of the telecommunications means that are intended for the general public, violating the secrecy and privacy of the people."10 According to this Resolution, the inviolability of the secrecy of the telecommunications includes the content of the dialogue as well as the identities of the parties.