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Chapter: 

IV. Governance issues

E-government

In Lithuania the Central Government is responsible for providing citizens with a different kind of e-services. Launched in January 2004, the Lithuanian eGovernment portal (reachable via "www.evaldzia.lt and "www.epaslaugos.lt) is intended to offer access to public information and services for citizens and businesses. It offers links to the public information and public services by redirecting citizens and businesses to the appropriate Web sites of public authorities. The Gates of the eGovernment portal is currently being updated with tools for electronic personal identification, centralised access to electronic public services, online payment for the requested services, and online tracking of the service provision process. The person's identification in the Portal is available through eBanking systems, using a national identity card, eSignature certificates or the mobile signatures of certain operators. Currently, the portal offers 18 public eServices.1

For example, an electronic declaration system has been available in Lithuania since 2004. This fully transactional system enables electronic filing of all tax returns: income tax returns, corporate tax returns, VAT returns, etc. Its key features include: multiple ways to fill in andsubmit declarations, notification on the status of declarations, multiple authentication methods, centralised archive, data exchange with other systems, new designs of return forms, and declaration process monitoring and management. Now, the service provider offers pre-filled declaration forms with some relevant data.2

In 2008, Lithuania launched two projects relating to e-identification.3 Under the "Project of the Civil Service Department", new public servants' identification cards were released, starting in September 2008, with chips containing both an identification and an e-signature certificate.4 The "Creation of the Infrastructure for the Establishment of the National Certification Centre and Personal Identification in the Electronic Space" created the means to issue personal e-identification cards and insure interoperability.5 In January 2009, electronic identity cards were first offered, containing a chip that provides identification and e-signature certificates as well as a chip with biometric data, including a facial image and fingerprints.6 Lithuania hopes to have all public institutions using electronic document exchange by the end of 2010, primarily through the use of qualified certificates that would allow for e-signatures. Since 2007 Lithuania has allowed e-signatures through the use of a SIM card in a mobile phone.7

Open government

The 1996 Law on the Provision of Information to the Public provides for a limited right of access to official documents and to documents held by political parties, political and public organisations, trade unions, and other entities.8

There were subsequent developments with regard to various registers. At the beginning of 2004, the Information Systems on the Administration of the Debtors, which included both natural and legal persons, started to operate.9 On average, there were more than 340,000 records and 100,000 requests made each month. In December 2004, the requests increased to 200,000 per month.10 In 2005, the Electronic Internal Waters Vessels Register was created.11 The register interacts with other state registers and information systems and will guarantee the effective distribution of information to the data subjects, such as marshalls, judicial institutions, and Tax Inspectorate.12

The Lithuanian Social Insurance Fund now provides data by electronic means to private companies, such as banks and leasing companies.13 The banks only have partial access to the data stored in the Social Insurance Fund's database. They are allowed to access the data concerning their client's solvency and data about a client's employment or work history and salary as well as any received pensions or one-time payments.14 The banks are able to access the database only after receiving written consent of the client. Access to the database is provided for a certain fee at the bank's request. In 2005, an investigation was started concerning a copy of the Social Insurance Fund's database, allegedly sold for LTL10,000 (approx. €2,900) to special investigation officers who pretended to be potential purchasers.15 The copy contained 20GB of data on the income of 1.5 million workers and 100,000 companies, names, surnames, workplaces, and home addresses.16

The Law on the Right to Acquire Information from the State and Municipality Institutions and Agencies requires that all informationregarding the activities of institutions while performing their legal functions shall be accessible to everyone and provided free of charge.17 The amendments made to the Law on 31 July 2008 equated information on the salary of an employee of an institution to information on the activities of institutions. Therefore, information on the salary is not considered to be private information any more. HRMI submits that applicability of a principle of publicly declared salary to all the employees of institutions may not always be justifiable by the public interest. Through the perspective of human rights, only salaries of persons performing public administration powers, administering a provision of public services, or whose activities influence public matters, should undoubtedly be public.

The amendments to the Law on the Right to Acquire Information from the State and Municipality Institutions and Agencies, that came into force on 1 July 2010, detailed certain information that must be published on the official Web sites of State or Municipality institutions. The publication of the information must comply with the provisions of the LLPPD and other laws.18

Other developmetnts

In the past few years, data protection issues in courts' practice started to emerge. The HRMI reports that the use of technical measures during the court hearings is not properly regulated.19 The Law foresees wide possibilities for the use of video recording and other technical measures during court hearings; however, there are no comprehensive rules for the storage and destruction of the collected data.20 The courts in their decisions still frequently use full names and last names of the parties in publicised court decisions and include excessive personal data of the parties to the case. Examples include addresses and sometimes even personal identification numbers, which jeopardise the interests of the parties.

Article 123(3) of the Civil Procedure Code provides that if a person who is delivering a procedural document does not find the addressee at home or at his/her workplace, one of the options to deliver the document is to hand it over to the administration of the addressee's workplace. However, it should be noted that such a document contains not only the plaintiff's, but also the defendant's personal data, which should not be accessible to the employer, unless the employer is a party to the case.21

Non-government organisations' advocacy work

Since 2004 the HRMI publishes Human Rights Overviews with a focus on the privacy issue. A team of human rights experts, with a reference to data collected during media monitoring, reports, analysis of legislation, and personal insights, and other documents from national and international institutions, produces an extensive evaluation of the human rights situation according to set criteria. Privacy has also been addressed in the last Human Rights Overview of 2007-2008,22 which was widely disseminated among legal practitioners, public institutions, law enforcement officers and other NGOs, and was followed by a number of round-table discussions and briefings with stakeholders. In 2007, the HRMI also organised a two-day international workshop on the Right to Freedom of Expression and the Rights to Respect for Private Life, which analysed the interrelation of two fundamental human rights. In 2010, the HRMI addressed the Ministry of Transport and Communications with regard to its recently adopted order. The legal act provides for video and audio recordings to be made in the motor vehicle during the final driving test, with the data to be kept for a period of a year after finishing the driving course.23 The HRMI advocated for an amendment of the order as it does not respect the right to private life and is contrary to the data protection standards.24

International obligations and International cooperation

Lithuania acceded to the 1966 UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and to its First Optional Protocol that establishes an individual complaint mechanism.25

Lithuania is a member of the Council of Europe (CoE) and has signed and ratified the Convention for the Protectionof Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.26 In June 2001 it ratified the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (Convention No. 108).27 In 2004 Lithuania has ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime.28 On 1 February 2007, Lithuania signed the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime.29

In February 2001, the European Court of Human Rights accepted two cases against Lithuania filed by a former prosecutor and a former tax inspector who alleged that their privacy was violated when they were fired from their positions and prohibited from taking certain posts in the private sector because of their previous collaboration with the KGB.30 On 27 July 2004, ECtHR concluded that the ban on the applicants seeking employment in various private-sector spheres, in application of Article 2 of the KGB Act, constituted a disproportionate measure, even having regard to the legitimacy of the aims pursued by that ban and, thus, found a violation of Article 14 of the Convention taken in conjunction with Article 8.31 In another case, the applicants, also former KGB agents, complained that the loss of their jobs, respectively, as a private-company lawyer and barrister, and the ban on their employment in various private-sector spheres until 2009, breached their privacy. The Court recalled the case of Sidabras and Džiautas explaining that the applicants' complaints were very similar, albeit wider: they related not only to their hypothetical inability to apply for various private-sector jobs until 2009 (as in Sidabras and Dziautas), but they also concerned their actual dismissal from existing employment in that sector. Consequently, the ECtHR found a violation of Article 14 of the Convention, taken in conjunction with Article 8.32

In 2005, the European Court of Human Rights found that Lithuania violated the right to respect for private and family life33 embedded in Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.34 The applicant's complaint concerned the opening up and reading by the prison administration of all his letters to and from the State authorities, NGOs, and private persons such as his family, relatives, friends, and legal counsel. The Court noted that interference with the applicant's right to respect for his correspondence could only be justified if such interference would be "in accordance with the law", pursued a legitimate aim and was necessary in a democratic society in order to achieve that aim.35 The interference had a legal basis, namely the provisions of the Detention on Remand Act and Remand Prisons Internal Rules, and the Court was satisfied that it pursued the legitimate aim of "the prevention of disorder or crime". However, as regards the necessity of the interference, the government had not explained why the control of all of the applicant's letters addressed to him and coming from the outside world was indispensable. The Court explained that the government's reason, namely the fear of the applicant's absconding or influencing his trial, may have been a basis for a certain form of interference with part of his correspondence, such as, for example, checking of some correspondence of non-legal nature or his correspondence with certain persons of dangerous provenance. However, the Court said that this fear alone could not be sufficient to grant the remand prison administration an open licence for indiscriminate, routine checking of all of the applicant's correspondence, in particular the applicant's letters from his legal counsel.36 The Court also did not find any reason to justify the censorship by the prison administration of the applicant's letters to State authorities. Overall, the government has not presented sufficient reasons to show that such a total control of the applicant’s correspondence with the outside world was "necessary in a democratic society." Consequently, the Court found a violation of Article 8 of the Convention. The ECtHR affirmed this position in its 16 November 2006 decision, Ciapas v. Lithuania, where prison administration opened and read all of the applicant's correspondence from his wife, his co-suspects, and his acquaintances.37 As of 31 December 2007, Lithuania had 420 cases pending before the European Court of Human Rights and 35 cases adjudicated before it.38 In 2008 the number of cases pending increased to 448.39 Two decisions were rendered regarding an insufficient redress in breach of privacy.40

In 2009, 17 new cases were initiated against Lithuania. As of 31 December 2009, Lithuania had 362 cases pending before the European Court of Human Rights and nine cases adjudicated before it.41

As already noted, on 1 May 2004, Lithuania joined the European Union.

Footnotes