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Privacy and Lex Nokia surveillance law

Posted: 2009-01-31 02:05:49, Categories: Finland, Helsinki, Politics, 484 words (permalink)

A sign saying (translation): Our basic rights are being taken away from us in silence, piece by piece. Hand in hand with the introduction of new surveillance systems, methods and laws, personal right to privacy is eroding bit by bit. Latest addition in Finland is the law proposal dubbed as Lex Nokia (full text in Finnish). It has raised quite a few critical voices nationally and got some international attention through EDRI and articles in the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper international edition.

In short, corporate and community Internet subscribers (yhteisötilaajat in Finnish) are about to gain substantial rights to monitor the behaviour of individual users in their networks. Publicly the law has been presented as a means to detect trade secret leaks from companies, but the proposal extends much further than that. For example libraries and university dormitories could check up on their users who they are exchanging emails with or which web pages they are visiting, with the broad excuse of suspicion of violation of network rules. The violation doesn't necessarily mean anything illegal, it is simply something which has been forbidden in the terms of use in that particular network.

There are some restrictions and privacy safeguards mentioned, but the proposal is written so unclearly that it's very difficult to say when exactly snooping would be allowed and when not. I tried but honestly couldn't figure it out. One thing is clear: the Finnish police is only allowed to browse the same kind of private information when the user is suspected of a crime, and minor crimes don't even apply. In other words, corporations and "community subscribers" are getting broader rights than the police. Oops.

There will be a public demonstration against the law proposal in Helsinki on February 5, 2009, starting at 14:30. If you agree with the message and can make it to the parliament house that day, be there! Another interesting related effort is creating two short TV commercials about the law and buying some prime time on one of the national channels to get the message out. The commercials will be aired a few times between Monday 2nd and Wednesday 4th of February.

There is something absurd about concerned private individuals campaigning against a surveillance law by buying airtime on television. Little by little, the world is being shaped towards the fictional reality described in George Orwell's famous book Nineteen Eighty Four (1984). His prediction was just a few dozen years ahead.

Update 17.2.2009: The TV commercials were aired and the public demonstration held, gathering about 300-400 participants. Discussion about the law proposal has continued lively in the media. The proposal has been criticized by the central bureau of police. The youth organization of the conservative party Kokoomus has issued a statement demanding the law proposal to be rejected. It will be interesting to see whether any of the conservative party members in power will follow their wish and vote against it. At least no politician can claim any more not having heard about problems related to the proposal.

3 comments

Comment from: Päivi & Santeri [Visitor]
Hauskaa mielenosoitusta! Olemme hengessä mukana. Päivi & Santeri
2009-02-01 @ 19:49
Comment from: ANdrei [Visitor]  
I totally agree. if you check out our new law, by which data about every communication is stored (including phone calls and emails etc.) by the providers and WE pay for this “service", then you see that you are still far off… but nevertheless, as the world’s most democratic country, this is a sad thing happening. can’t make it to the parliament house in helsinki, but I’d attend if I were there :D
2009-02-02 @ 11:26
Comment from: [Member]

Also in Finland data about every communication is stored by the teleoperators for one year. We’ve had that law for a few years thanks to a EU directive which requires data retention. However, access to that data is limited to police and a few other officials (e.g. emergency centers in certain cases) and the conditions when access is granted are more restricted than in Lex Nokia.

The TV commercials are now available online and they’re quite cool. There was also an interesting article about Lex Nokia (in Finnish only) in the Sunday edition of Helsingin Sanomat newspaper.

2009-02-03 @ 01:20


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