Spain/Catalunya: Catalan government's IT security service drew up dossiers on activists' use of Twitter

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On 24 January 2014, following earlier denials, the Catalan councillor for business and employment, Felip Puig, acknowledged that Cesicat [Centro de Seguridad de las Informaciones de Cataluña], a body set up in 2010 and tasked with guaranteeing the Generalitat's [the Catalan government] IT security, had drawn up 50 dossiers on activists and social movements based on its monitoring of Twitter accounts in 2012 and 2013 on behalf of the Catalan police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra.

El País reports that Puig had dismissed these allegations as "unfounded information" in October 2013 after Anonymous released some documents obtained from a former employee who had stolen them. The former employee reportedly also sent an email to the media that included an email communication in which the Catalan director general for telecommunications and former head of Cesicat, Carlos Flamerich, was asked by the director general of the police Manel Prat, to monitor specified people's activities on the social media networks ("highlighted in bold") in connection to their political activity.

Police sources reportedly claimed that Cesicat had previously offered its services to draw up profiles to the Catalan police, after the role of social media in organising mobilisations became apparent. The documents showed that people and movements connected to social struggles, including mobilisations about the European Central Bank summit, the anniversary of the 15 M protest movement, a campaign against Bankia and another one in Catalunya not to pay motorway tolls, were being monitored. A far right centre in Barcelona called Tramuntana was also reportedly among the profiles that were handed over to the Mossos d'Esquadra.

As for the people who were included in this surveillance operation, they included journalists, lawyers and activists, some of whom were identified as being "very active" in the protest movements and as requiring special monitoring, including the elderly anti-austerity protesters group Iaioflautas.

El País reported that members of all the parties represented in the Catalan parliament except for Convergencia i Unió (CiU) complained about the reports, noting that they reveal "ideological information about people", amidst mentions of an "Orwellian age" and concerns that it may violate the data protection law and/or amount to a criminal offence.

Privacy lawyer Paloma Llaneza suggested that the report "which someone has on their table, and contains avatars and profiles for a purpose that we don't know", should be shredded, as it violates data protection. The newspaper was also told by security expert Gemma Galdón that:

"it is quite clear, it is forbidden for public authorities to set up ideological databases" and that, regardless of the information coming from "open sources... intervention by state and the police must be motivated by a clear, identifiable risk".

Puig stressed that Cesicat does not hold any reports or databases in connection with this monitoring activity, and that any information collected was gathered from "open sources" for "security" purposes: "Neither the police nor Cesicat analyse ideologies, but rather, threats".

A further troubling development in the case involved a Cesicat report on the prospects for setting up a Catalan national security agency. Puig denied that the report was commissioned by the Generalitat and dismissed the possibility of Cesicat ever becoming an "intelligence centre", yet he conceded that it was a part of "various exercises to develop future structures".


"Puig admite que el Cesicat elaboró 50 informes sobre activistas", Rebeca Carranco, El País, 25.1.2014

"El director de los Mossos encargó al Cesicat seguir a activistas", Jesús García, El País, 19.12.2013.

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