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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Big Brother comes to Sweden

7:32:00 PM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments
On Wednesday June 18th this week, the Swedish parliament is most likely going to vote for a proposal that allows the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment (in Swedish, "Försvarets Radioanstalt", FRA) to bug all communication that passes the Swedish border over Internet and telephone networks. You can read about the proposal in The Local, a site with Sweden's news in English.

The critique against the new legislation in the Swedish part of the blogosphere is massive. There is – with Swedish measures - an avalanche of posts (2500+) written about the legislation, most of them taking stand against it in.

If the parliament votes for the proposal, it is clearly taking us one step closer towards a Big Brother society. By doing so, we are actually playing our enemies, those who want to put our western civilization and culture into ruins, right in their hands. This kind of development is exactly what they like to see in our free and democratic societies.

Also large companies such as the Swedish-Finnish telecom operator TeliaSonera and Google have expressed critique against the proposal. TeliaSonera has decided to move all mail servers used for Finnish customers to Finland in order to avoid that the traffic is being bugged by FRA. Google global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer visited Sweden one year ago when the same proposal was planned to be put before the Swedish parliament, but then postponed one year. This is what he had to say about it according to The Local:
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.

The proposal stems from a tradition begun by Saudi Arabia and China and simply has no place in a Western democracy...//...We simply cannot compromise our users' integrity by allowing Swedish authorities access to data that may not even concern Swedish activity...//...The proposal stems from a tradition begun by Saudi Arabia and China and simply has no place in a Western democracy.
Swedish media have not written much about the proposal and its consequences. As a consequence, I would say that people in general are not aware of what it means - if they even know about the proposal at all. If people would understand that all e-mails that they send using hotmail or Gmail from a computer in Sweden can be read by the Swedish government, I am sure that more Swedish citizens would at least pop the question what this kind of bugging is needed and what it means to their privacy and personal integrity.

It might be that the avalanche of blog posts that raise concerns and critique against the proposal can actually convince some members of the parliament to change their minds so they will vote against the proposal or lay down their votes. If they choose to do so, it will mean that they will vote against the party they belong to, something which is a deadly sin for Swedish politicians. Well, at least it can be a career killer. But imagine if this would happen – then it will be show that the blogosphere has become a power to count with in politics.

It would be interesting to know if Swedish politicians also listen to bloggers in the international blogosphere. So please do not hesitate to bring something this to debate even if you are not Swedish.

Some background information, starting with what freedom of speech / expression is about:
Freedom of speech is being able to speak freely without censorship...//...The synonymous term freedom of expression is sometimes preferred, since the right is not confined to verbal speech but is understood to protect any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (10 December 1948 at Palais de Chaillot, Paris):
[Article 19] Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

[Article 12] No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

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