As we mentioned last week, there’s a law before parliament (in Arabic) that deals with electronic information, signatures, and e-banking. The vote has been set for Tuesday, June 15. A group of stakeholders will hold an EMERGENCY MEETING tonight, Sunday, June 13, to discuss the law and prepare to block the vote on Tuesday. Join us. If you can’t join us, then please join the Facebook Page.
It consists of about 200 articles and was voted on in committee last week without any comment allowed.
There are some very troubling articles in the law that threaten to create a more restrictive or at least more monitored online environment in Lebanon, including:

  • Article 70. Arising under this Act a body called the Electronic Signatures & Services Authority, enjoying the moral and financial and administrative independence and exercise the powers and functions entrusted to it under this Act and placed to regulate the administrative and financial decrees adopted in the Council of Ministers upon the proposal of the competent minister (in this case OMSAR)….This body is not subject to the provisions of the general system of public institutions and is under the control of the Audit Bureau (after the fact).
  • Article 82. The Agency may, within the exercise of its functions set out in this Act, carry out inspections of financial, administrative and electronic access to any information or computer systems or tools related to operations, including those used for data processing in relation with private information.Employees are entrusted inspection functions as an specialized judicial police within the scope of the Authority’s work. Public Prosecutions and the investigating judges and courts may use the Authority in their investigations, provided that the staff of the agency concerned had sworn before the Court of Appeal in Beirut prior to their work.
  • Article 84. The observer or inspector is assigned formally by the inspection work either periodically or upon the complaint. An observer or inspector can , to the extent required by the mission only, and the requirement to maintain the confidentiality of information seen it, to request:
    • Access to any document regardless of media and obtain copies of it.
    • Obtaining all information or clarifications it deems necessary, from the place of investigation, or after  invitation.
    • Access to software, data and print them.
    • The use of experts when necessary building permission from the President of the Commission.
  • Article 87. The Agency may, depending on the type and gravity of the offense [for violating the terms of licenses that ESSA will sell—see Article 92 below], the imposition of any such action or fines following:
    • Stop treatment if the assets were subject to the permit.
    • Modify the terms of the license as to ensure the elimination of the violation.
    • Suspension of a license for a specified period.
    • Cancel the license.

    Impose a fine commensurate with the gravity of the offense committed and the benefits resulting therefrom.

  • Article 92. Each person wishing to provide signature and authentication services of any electronic or online services relevant under the supervision of the Commission, must obtain a license.
  • See a full translation of Articles 70 to 92. Or, read a similar post in Arabic.

These are some of the most disturbing articles, both for their content and lack of clarity. The private sector has compiled comments about the law (in Arabic) and how it will negatively affect the economic environment, already depressed by high access costs, the lack of a robust internet infrastructure, and the nonexistence of broadband.
Stakeholders interested in joining efforts to block the vote on this law, pending review and constructive revisions, are meeting tonight at Gloria Jeans’ in Hamra. Please join us.