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Snooping law, "Lex Nokia", proceeding slowly but surely in Finland

17 December, 2008

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

Earlier this year, in April, the Government of Finland presented a bill to the Parliament for an amendment to the Act on Data Protection of Electronic Communications. Raison d'être for the bill officially is that it would allow employers to investigate the log data of employees' e-mails, if the company has reason to suspect that corporate secrets are leaking out of the company or that the employer's communication networks are being misused. The employer would not be allowed to read the content of the messages themselves, however. The bill has been dubbed "Lex Nokia" because it was sparked in 2006 by an announcement by prosecutor Jukka Haavisto that Nokia had been illegally monitoring contact information of its employees' e-mail in 2000 to 2001.

The public discussion about the proposed legislation has largely focused on the official need for the law. However, the bill in itself does not contain limitations restricting the snooping only to email logs, nor only to employers. The law is vague, and can be interpreted to cover nearly any IP-based telecommunication and in addition to companies, it also covers some "corporate subscribers", for example universities.

In spite of legal expert statements that the government's proposal violates the Finnish constitution, Constitutional Law Committee stated that the bill is not unconstitutional and that it can be passed as a regular law. Unlike many other countries, Finland does not have a Constitutional Court, instead a parliamentary committee investigates .

The right to confidential communication is a fundamental right guaranteed under the Finnish constitution, as well as by the European treaty on human rights. The Chancellor of Justice and several law professors have expressed concerns that Lex Nokia unnecessarily weakens these fundamental rights, while giving corporations excessive leeway. In effect, companies would have a higher authority to snoop on employees than the police have, and they would be able to do so without obtaining a warrant.

The measure was originally expected to come before the full Parliament for a vote in mid-December, but it did not pass through the Transport and Communications Committee as quickly as expected. The committee proposed some minor changes to the law, and three dissenting minority opinions were included in the statement. However, passage of the bill is nearly certain, as the government parties have agreed on the matter.

The Constitution of Finland (31.07.1999)

"Lex Nokia" gets blessing from Constitutional Law Committee (14.11.2008)

Legal experts say "Lex Nokia" violates constitution (20.11.2008)

Chancellor of Justice criticises controversial proposal for "Lex Nokia" (2.12.2008)

(Contribution by Leena Romppainen - EDRi-member Electronic Frontier Finland )



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