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II. Surveillance policies

National security, government surveillance and law enforcement

Wiretapping, access to, and interception of communications

Despite the existing laws and regulations, the right to privacy of private communications is immature in Turkey. According to Human Rights Watch, human rights defenders are routinely placed under surveillance, often prevented from holding public events, and routinely prosecuted for various speech and assembly offences.1

Articles 195-200 of the Turkish Criminal Code govern freedom of communication through letters, parcels, telegram, and telephone. Government officials are required, subject to various exceptions, to obtain a judicial warrant before monitoring private correspondence.

In a letter that was leaked to the media in early 2007, the National Intelligence Agency Undersecretary complained about the difficulties the national intelligence community was facing because of existing legislation against phone tapping and eavesdropping; he requested an amendment in the law to enhance the agency's eavesdropping powers.2

National security legislation

In 2006, the government adopted amendments to its Antiterrorism Law. The amendments have been highly criticised for placing further restrictions on the already censored media. Editors that disclose the identities of public personnel fighting terrorism may be fined, and a judge may order the closure for up to one month of a publication that "makes propaganda for terrorist organisations." During the year there was an increase in the number of cases against the press under the Antiterrorism Law. The Turkish Publishers Association and human rights groups reported that the law contains an overly broad definition of what constitutes an offence that allows ideologically and politically motivated prosecutions.3

Immediately following deadly bombings in Ankara in May 2007, the government proposed another amendment to the Police Task and Authority Bill, (Polis Vazife Ve Selahiyet Kanunu)[25] that will allow police to take fingerprints of anyone applying for a gun licence, driving licence, passport, or Turkish citizenship. This amendment was adopted swiftly in June 2007. It also provides the police with a larger authority to stop, search, and demand identification from individuals. The amended Bill also enables the police to use anyone to collect information. Some lawyers say it represents the largest expansion of police authority ever.4

Data retention

In the Telecommunications Council's 2007 work plan, the Authority stated that it plans to review the Regulation on Personal Data Processing and the Protection in Telecommunication Sector (Regulation) in order to suggest methods of harmonising it with the European Union's 2006 Data Retention Directive.5 No further information has been provided.

National databases for law enforcement and security purposes

The Ministry of Justice has recently established a National Judiciary Informatics System (Ulusal Yargı Ağı Projesi or UYAP ),6 which is to implement a very ambitious information system between the courts and all other institutions of the Ministry, including prisons. UYAP equipped these institutions with computers with networking and Internet connections, allowing them access to all legislation, decisions of the Supreme Court, judicial records, judicial data of the police, and army records. Thus, UYAP established an electronic network covering all courts, offices of public prosecutors and law enforcement offices together with the Central Organisation of the Ministry of Justice.

It is also planned to set up integration with the databases of national and international institutions and organisations in the course of progress towards accession to the European Union. In this context, it is also aimed at establishing links to the central databases of the European Union and EU member countries' systems.7

National and international data disclosure agreements

No specific information has been provided under this section.


Under the current Turkish Criminal Code, computer-related offences can be prosecuted pursuant to Amendment No. 3756, "Crimes on Informatics."8

Just before the 2007 elections, the Government rushed to enact the infamous Law No. 5651 entitled Regulation of Publications on the Internet and Suppression of Crimes Committed by means of such Publication.9 Law No. 5651 regulates the legal responsibilities of various actors including content providers, hosting companies, Internet service providers (ISPs), and Internet cafés. It also addresses how the current regulatory systems work and how websites, predominantly situated outside the Turkish jurisdiction, will be blocked by court and administrative proceedings. This has raised the issue of censorship of Internet content and drawn attention to the Telecommunication Communication Presidency (Telekomünikasyon Ä°letiÅŸim BaÅŸkanlığı or TÄ°B). TÄ°B is the organisation responsible for executing blocking orders issued by the courts, and has been given authority to issue administrative blocking orders with regard to certain Internet content hosted in Turkey, and to websites hosted abroad, in terms of crimes listed in Article 8 of Law No. 5651.

Thus, censorship of ISPs, and eventually of user-generated content, is a long-lasting issue in Turkey. It started with a court order in Ankara stemming from ten video clips consisting of defamatory statements and images about the founder/pioneer of Turkish Republic, Atatürk. These clips were deemed to be illegal by the court pursuant to Law No. 5816 titled Crimes Against Atatürk, and access to these clips are blocked in accordance with the Law No. 5651, which came into force in November 2007 as aforementioned.

The attitude of the Government, and TÄ°B gradually grew less tolerant such that it is estimated that 5,000 websites are currently blocked in Turkey. This grave situation reached its climax when TÄ°B requested that some ISPs in Turkey block access to specified IP addresses used by YouTube. As a result of this demand and action, a number of Google services -- including Google Analytics, Translate, Docs, Books, Maps, and Earth -- have been heavily affected since 4 June 2010. These Google services were not blocked, but access to them has become a painstaking and time-consuming effort. Some users have even reported that they cannot access the aforementioned sites. To defend itself from the resulting public annoyance, TÄ°B blamed Google as the parent company of YouTube, and held it responsible by using the same blocked IP addresses for the disrupted Google-related services.

Nonetheless, there is another side of the coin. According to Law No. 5651, a valid court order is essential for blocking access to a website. Some exceptions to this rule are provided in specific cases such as child pornography and crimes against Atatürk. Even for these exceptions, an administrative proceeding should be sought. However, neither was done in TİB's latest action. Therefore, this action can be considered absolutely unlawful.10 Once again, the basic constitutional right to "communication and access to information" was violated.

On the other hand, the reason behind the government's actions against YouTube was revealed and alleged to be financial. Google has no legal entity in Turkey and therefore has no tax liability. The government claims that Google should be registered and should pay its levies as any other foreign company operating in Turkey. However, this should not be accepted as an excuse, this is totally a different issue and no such financial or tax based provision has been stated in Law No. 5651 as reason for justifying blocking access.

Critical infrastructure

No specific information has been provided under this section.

Territorial privacy

Video surveillance

No specific information has been provided under this section.

Location privacy (GPS, mobile phones, location based services, etc.)

No specific information has been provided under this section.

Travel privacy (travel identification documents, biometrics, etc.) and border surveillance

No specific information has been provided under this section.

National ID and smart cards

According to a Prime Minister's department Circular, issued on 4 July 2007, on an electronic citizenship card pilot project, electronic citizenship cards will be exclusively used for ID verification purposes.11 The Circular specifies both the characteristics of the card as well as the project's implementation process.12

The citizenship card, which is actually a smart card, will exclusively contain static information necessary to perform ID verification, but no dynamic data such as health information, address, etc. The card will enable ID verification with different credentials such as visual security elements, pin code and biometric data (fingerprint). The biometric data will be held exclusively on the card and will not be stored in a central database. The card is going to replace the currently used national identity cards. In addition, the characteristics of the card enable its usage in any service requiring secure ID verification, such as online e-government services, financial transactions, etc.13

In accordance with the Circular, a three-stage pilot implementation project has already been initiated in the area of social security and health. The second phase of the pilot implementation was completed and third and last phase which includes the dissemination of 300,000 ID cards to citizens has been started by August 2009. Pilot implementation will be completed by 2010 and ID cards will be distributed all over the country in 2011.14

Religious affiliation is listed on national identity cards. A few religious groups, such as the Baha'i, are unable to state their religion on their cards because it is not included among the options; they have made their concerns known to the government. In April 2006, the government adopted legislation allowing persons to leave the religion section of their identity cards blank or change the religious designation by written application. However, according to the US State Department, the Turkish government continued to restrict applicants' choice of religion.15

RFID tags

No specific information has been provided under this section.

Bodily privacy

No specific information has been provided under this section.