Transparency of the ownership of telecommunication companies and security of the customers’ data - aforesaid two issues have been distinguished in the course of discussion.
The discussion took place under the initiative of Transparency International Georgia, after the presentation of itsreport. The report touched upon the statistics of Internet usage in Georgia, information regarding the supervision of Internet activity, ownership of telecommunication companies and their accountability towards the customers, as well as financial conditions of online and other means of media.
The report suggests “the ownership structure of several large Georgian telecommunication companies being obscure, as fictitious companies are brought into play in order to conceal the beneficiary owners. Transparency International Georgia has sufficient ground to suspect that 50% of the Caucasus Online and 49% of Beeline belong to the same vague people, hiding behind the companies registered in the British Virginia Islands. Those people have appointed Levan Karamanishivili as their representative, who’s, at the same time, the shareholder ofRustavi 2 and Mze TV Companies. He is as well linked to GMC Group restaurants and other businesses.
The Beeline representative Giorgi Tkeshelashvili explained at the discussion, that the Georgian National Telecommunications Commission (GNCC) has information regarding the owners that can be handed to any party concerned. Tkeshelashvili remarked that Beeline supports transparency and that it’s possible to update the information regarding the owners on the level of Georgian representation. The problem, however, emerges in relation with the owners of 51% of the companies being abroad. According to Tkeshelashvili, it’s rather hard to permanently update the information under the circumstances of changing stockholders.
Khatia Kurashvili, Head of GNCC Public Relations Service attending the meeting suggested that a company must first of all inform the GNCC in case of the change of its the ownership. The information will thus be reflected in a company’s data. Hence, the transparency of the ownership, even of those residing abroad, isn’t a problem.
The representative of Transparency International Georgia Mamuka Andguladze in turn stressed that neither the Public Registry nor the GNCC holds full information regarding Beeline.
The report of Transparency International Georgia as well reads, that the telecommunication companies do not fully inform their customers of the way their personal data is stored, managed, how safe it is and under what circumstances it may be handed to the third party.
Giorgi Tkeshelashvili has expressed his willingness towards providing the customers with more information regarding the way it is stored and managed by a company, its safety level and in what instances it may be handed to the third party.
Levan Bodzashvili, Director of the Cyber Security Center, retorted that law-enforcement agencies aren’t authorized of requesting personal information without the due court sanctions.
Beeline Representative stressed had not been notified of the issue that information and he would further inquire next time when transferring the information. According to him, the company won’t give out the customer-related information for the third parties (for instance to a commercial entities). He’s certain that the rest of the telecommunication companies as well abstain from doing such things.
If a company doesn’t give out the data, why do then the customers receive advertisements of different kind without their consent? - the question remains unanswered.
The discussion also stressed that the degree of citizens awareness need to be raised in regard to who and under what circumstances their personal data may be transfered and what exactly it implies.