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Belgian tax authorities may be able to access citizens' mobile phone data

10:25 01/06/2022

The Belgian government is working on a draft law to step up the fight against terror, but the current proposal would also allow tax authorities to access citizens’ telephone data without a warrant.

Accessing cell phone records usually requires the intervention of an investigating judge. But the Het Nieuwsblad and Le Soir report that the new 'data retention legislation' would allow authorities to circumvent that process. 

While intended to ensure that telecom operators keep records so that the police or the courts can look into them if necessary, experts warn that the wording of the draft text is too vague. 

The text stipulates that “authorities competent to detect and investigate infringements punishable by administrative sanctions of a criminal nature” can request cell phone data, and the tax authority would be included under that definition.

“In the past, the Constitutional Court has already annulled laws of this type because they went too far,” tax expert Michel Maus told Le Soir. 

“Today it is described in a different way, but the scope is much too broad. Still, it is only a draft law – the final text may be different.”

The government is already placing some nuances into the draft law, including an emphasis that not all tax authorities are intended to be able to view any collected telephone data. 

Only the BBI (Special Tax Inspectorate) would be entrusted with such a power of inspection, such nuances would clarify, and not the entire tax department. 

Photo: © Belga/Jonas Hamers

 

Written by Helen Lyons