Turkey’s top court allows presidency to access personal data of citizens

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In a controversial move that raised concerns further about the state violating the privacy of its citizens, Turkey’s Constitutional Court has allowed the Presidential Communications Directorate to access data of Turkish citizens in all public agencies, according to a report on the ankaragazetecisi news website.

The court ruled with a majority of votes that the directorate’s authority to seek “all the data it deems necessary” from public agencies as well as legal entities does not violate the country’s constitution. Against 10 who voted in favor of the decision, five members of the court including chief justice Zühtü Arslan dissented, saying that the personal data of citizens would be unprotected in the hands of the Presidential Communications Directorate.

The authority to access to the personal data of citizens was granted to the directorate with a presidential decree issued in July 2018 shortly after Turkey effectively switched to a presidential system of governance that granted the president vast powers.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) challenged the decree at the Constitutional Court on the grounds that allowing the directorate to have access to “all the data it deems necessary” contravenes the constitution and that issues related to the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens cannot be regulated through presidential decrees.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was elected for a second term as president in June 2018, was an ardent supporter of Turkey’s switch from the parliamentary system to the presidential system of governance. Turkey adopted the new system in a referendum in 2017. Erdoğan became the first president elected under the new system in 2018. Critics accuse him of establishing one-man rule in the country by weakening the parliament and silencing dissent under the new system.

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