Sweden Considering Law To Let The Government Monitor All Forms Of Communications

from the doesn't-anyone-see-a-problem-with-this? dept

While Sweden may have some politicians who understand copyright issues, we’re about to find out how well they understand privacy issues. The Swedish Parliament is considering a bill that would give the government rather broad powers to monitor all forms of communication, from telephone to email to fax. It would require telcos to install (at their own expense) equipment that would allow this widespread monitoring. As one critic of the bill notes, it’s as if the supporters of the bill assume that government officials will only have the best of intentions when using such a system. I think we can all agree that this is not the case. Any such system will likely be abused. And, of course, as that same critic points out: “No one has shown this method to be effective, the criminals will always be one step ahead, and normal users will be caught in the middle.”

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Comments on “Sweden Considering Law To Let The Government Monitor All Forms Of Communications”

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Patrick says:

One interesting observation all of us who are opposed to this huge invasion of privacy is that almost none of the giant media outlets have brought this issue up for debate and deep investigation. The fact that they themselves are affected by this as their constitutional right to keep their informants secret will be equally affected as our personal e-mail getting scanned and analyzed.

Another huge issue is that several liberal members of parliament, who received personal mandates from their voters on the ballots for standing up FOR privacy, say that they don’t like the law but feel obligated to vote in favor of it because of pressure from their party officials.

As it is now we only need four members of parliament who vote with their concience, and not by party whip, to keep this legislation out (at least for the moment). Another fact is that the largest opposition party (social democrats) also support similar legislation, so the outcome of this looks rather slim in a longer perspective…

Claes says:

There’s currently an outrage among Swedish bloggers with practically everyone on the net opposing the law. Yet, as Patrick says papers, TV and radio have been almost completely silent about it. So I would guess that most people are not actually aware of this dismantling of very basic human rights.

The politicians who support the proposal for the most part do it in vague terms of protecting oneself against terrorism (even though there is no such threat against Sweden at this point). They say one will only monitor communication that crosses the borders (which is practically all communication) and that individual Swedes will not be monitored (even though the law allows exactly that).

I think the law proposal is to be understood like this: the Swedish defence forces feel that they have too little intel from the rest of the world. That’s why they want to monitor communications that cross Sweden to be able to trade that against intel that other countries has gathered.

In the last election I voted for the Centre Party which is now one of the four parties in power. The reason was among other things their strong message about respect for privacy and in general sane views about software patents (ie. not allowing them). This party now supports the law proposal so I think a lot of libertarian people who voted for them feel betrayed. They seem to reason that since they have been able to introduce some extra checks and controls into the proposal, mass-surveilance of the Swedish people is now ok. Scaringly naive.

Btw. Sweden’s laws regarding journalists’ informants are actually a bit special and even more strict than Patrick portrays it. Unlike the law in many other countries the Swedish law mandates that journalists keep their informants secret. So a journalist cannot reveal who he used as source even if he wants to unless he has the consent of that person. I find it very surprising that journalists don’t oppose this new surveilance law strongly.

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