How personal is personal data in Albania

Jona Koprencka




There is no more room for imagination or assumption, now we know the salaries of our neighbor, friend, cousin, a former colleague who now works elsewhere and is complaining about his/her salary, we also know the salary of the boss and the director. We have become a society where personal matters belong to the collective.

The history of intercepting citizens’ communications seems to be endless in Albania. Personal data such as monthly salaries, the organization where one works and license plate numbers of private vehicles are made public. The end of 2021 was marked by the scandal of partisan activists who have intercepted the communication of citizens on their social media regarding their political beliefs, religion and family ties, which had been going on for years. These activities were revealed to the public just a few days before the general elections on April 25, when activists published PIN numbers from citizens’ ID cards.

The interception of communication continues to this day

Interception of communication is not a thing of the past, although Albania has been officially recognized as a democratic republic since 1992. During the communist dictatorship, they were called spies of the National Security, and now they are called "protégés" (party activists-bots), members of the Socialist Party, who have committed theft and have intercepted communications of Albanian citizens. It was the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, who, after winning his third term in April 2021, publicly thanked them for their work. Obviously, their work goes beyond monitoring political and religious beliefs, and family ties.

No one assumed that the name and surname of the citizen, their job and the amount of the salary, even the license plates of the vehicles and the type of vehicle could be attached to a folder. The Prime Minister of the country Edi Rama made took an ironic take of the situation, by not taking it very seriously. He said: "Personal data leaks have also occurred in developed countries such as Russia and the United Kingdom. And opposition leader Lulzim Basha has accused the government of stealing personal data and abusing state institutions."

The two specialists of the National Agency of Information Society (AKSHI), Eni Qirjako and Andi Agaraj, and two Albanian nationals involved in lending and debt collection agencies, Klodian Sota and Endri Ikonomi, are the four persons detained at the Tirana prosecutor's office in the case regarding the personal data scandal in Albania. The news was also covered by the most prestigious media in the world, which pointed out that Albania is taking steps back in the democratization of the country.

The law on personal data and the impact on society

"Personal data" means any piece of information relating to a natural person, whether identified or identifiable, directly or indirectly, in particular pertaining to an identification number or one or more factors specific to his or her physical, physiological, mental, economic, cultural or social identity.

The data is part of "iAlbania", the government portal that Prime Minister Rama promotes as his greatest achievement, a portal storing all the personal data of the citizens of Albania.

Source: freepik.com

Phone number, ID card number, job, salary, vehicle and license plates are no longer personal data. Now, we all know everyone's personal income. There are calculations on monthly payments made to citizens, how much are their monthly expenses, how much they could set aside as savings, etc. Not to repeat ourselves, but this comes a few months after the scandal of monitoring social media broke out, with the public announcement of family relations, inciting conflicts between close and distant relatives.

There is no more room for imagination or assumption, now we know the salaries of our neighbor, friend, cousin, former colleague who now works elsewhere and is complaining about his/her salary, we also know the salary of the boss and the director. We have obviously become a society where personal matters belong to the collective. This situation is not normal at all.

Conflicts and disagreements are flaring up: coworkers are looking at each other with envy over who has the highest income, even though they do the same job. Public disclosure has lit up a spark in the journalist profession, seeing how the salary of a field journalist or news reporter is 10 times lower than that of a speaker or presenter. Another scandal enveloped by this ordeal is the announcement of the salaries of the employees of the national intelligence service and the employees of the army. Some public figures, such as opposition leader Baton Haxhiu, were paid by one institution while doing their actual work elsewhere. It reveals how much celebrities close to the ruling party are paid and how these individuals are involved in the work of the state administration, thus being rewarded for their persuasion and loyalty.

The state authorities can no longer be trusted since this is the umpteenth time that we are facing a leak of confidential information. The situation becomes even more serious when no important decisions are made or at least the servers are changed. Citizens interviewed in various media, as well as representatives of the civil sector say that they do not expect drastic measures to be taken by the competent authorities and wish this to be the last data to be released to the public in such a manner.

It would be appropriate for institutions such as the Ombudsman, the President's Cabinet and foreign embassies accredited in Tirana to put more pressure on the government to take the issue seriously without further leaks of personal data.

For now, it seems that the problem lies in the government portal E-Albania, from which there is data collection and leakage. A thorough investigation of the servers, the people in charge of their maintenance and the officials of E-Albania are likely to help the investigation to clear up this case.


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Jona Koprencka

Jona Koprencka is an assistant professor at the Department of International Relations and Political Science at Epoka University in Tirana, Albania. She is a former deputy editor of the online newspaper Gazeta Mendimi, which, among other things, covers issues related to the conflicts in the Middle East and relations between Russia and NATO / US in the Balkans.