What’s up with the Swedes?
I heard rumblings of this last week but have found it difficult to track down details, so I may not have a complete and accurate picture yet. The Swedes are about to pass a piece of legislation that Bush would be immensely proud of. Next Tuesday, June 17, the Swedish Parliament looks set to pass this startling law (which I won’t attempt to write or pronounce in Swedish). For the non-Swedes amongst us this Bill should be called any of the following:
- a complete abuse of civil rights
- better than the Stasi could ever come up with
- Big Brother in CAPS
When I think of Sweden I think of (predictable I know) ABBA, IKEA and a lot of funky design. I don’t think of Sweden as being in the grip of Big Brother. But alas, there’s clearly something in the Swedish water for this is what’s happening:
- the Bill is roughly translated to “a better adapted military intelligence gathering”
- it gives Sweden’s National Defense Radio Establishment (or FRA) wide sweeping powers to monitor all incoming and outgoing telephony traffic, which means web searches, emails, phone calls and faxes
- say what?? let’s hear that again – ALL web, email and telephone traffic going into or out of Sweden.
- let’s pause for a moment to consider that internet searches are often routed through countries on the way to their final destination, so data contained within the traffic routing through Swedish borders MAY NOT EVEN CONCERN the Swedes!!
It gets worse. All telephone companies and ISPs will be required to link up to the FRA’s supercomputer (apparently, the fifth most powerful computer on the planet). This is why the law is known as The FRA Law. The FRA will search the data in real time and match keywords against a list of 250,000. If any communication or web search contains an offending keyword or two it will be hauled aside for further analysis (along no doubt with the person who made the call, sent the email or searched the internet).
Some 500 Swedish authorities will be able to request searches and analysis, including the police, secret service, customs. Even business will be able to participate in this wild wiretapping frenzy although they will have to make a request through a Government authority. And the Bill allows Swedish citizens to be singled out and targeted.
According to the Swedish Pirate Party (gotta love that name) a majority of Parliamentary members back the Bill so it’s likely to pass. Very little has been mentioned of this in English language blogs or newspapers (that I can find anyway). But Google (who I normally rant and rave about) is actually against this Bill. Google? Yes, Google who see no reason they cannot drive up your driveway, take a photo of your house and smack said photo onto Google Maps or Street View. Even Google is up in arms about this Bill.
Google has slammed it for being illiberal and undemocratic – you go Google! Google’s global privacy officer (they have one?) said: “We have contacted Swedish authorities to give our view of the proposal and we have made it clear that we will never place any servers inside Sweden’s borders if the proposal goes through. We simply cannot compromise our users’ integrity by allowing Swedish authorities access to data that may not even concern Swedish activity”.
TeliaSonera, the Nordic and Baltic telecommunications provider, is planning to move its servers out of Sweden to protect the privacy of its Finnish customers.
The leader of the Swedish Pirate Party, Rick Falkvinge, has a great summary of the Bill and its history here. Not exactly objective I guess but it’s the only detailed summary I could find.
Talk about a Government having wide-sweeping powers to wire-tap and snoop. Should this Bill pass next Tuesday, then we should mark June 17 2008 as the day that the Swedish people lost any expectation of privacy and became instead a society that is watched and surveilled every moment of the day.
I don’t understand why news wires and blogs haven’t picked up on this – shouldn’t we be extremely concerned that this dark threat to privacy is happening??
Source: The Register