Draft bill to violate inmates' privacy in e-mail surveillance in Turkey

A draft bill in parliament will offer inmates in Turkey the chance to use e-mail, but will keep all correspondences under record for a year, and all interactions will remain under surveillance at all times. The new practice would allow inmates to write to family members who are up to third degree in closeness.

Hacı Bişkin / DUVAR

A new draft bill in parliament would allow for inmates in Turkey to use e-mail to communicate with family members, although the correspondences will be under constant surveillance and will be archived for a year afterwards. 

Prisoners in Turkey previously suffered from high postal costs and the unavailability of supplies, said Esra Erin, legal counsel to the Association of Civil Society in the Correctional System (CISST). 

"However, this legislation also allows for the archival of not just all e-mails, but all letters, fax and telegraphs that inmates receive for a whole year afterwards," Erin said. 

The legislation is in violation of Turkey's Personal Data Protection Law (KVKK), as the text suggests that the only exceptional case when personal data can be kept in record is under "concise, clear and legitimate reasons," Erin added.  

"It's clear that the restrictions in the legislation are not narrowly tailored to the purposes of the benefit that's sought after. It will severely violate inmates' privacy to have their letters available for anyone to read," Erin said. 

The prison administration's archiving of inmates' correspondence will also create an opportunity for them to use the written material in retaliatory ways, Erin noted.

"It allows for a system of leverage to be established, that can be used arbitrarily by the administration," the legal counsel said. 

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has set precedent about inmate correspondences by ruling that any surveillance must be intentional, precise and short-term, Erin added.