Sweden resists EU’s watchful eye

Sweden government is picking a fight with the EU over plans to monitor and store all telecom and internet traffic, when every call, every text, even every email will be watched if the EU has its way.

­Sweden is a dedicated protector of its privacy, to the extent that there are very few security cameras on the streets.

The EU is imposing a law to store all telecom traffic data in order to have the capacity to establish where you are and who you are talking to.

Sweden's sharp refusal to comply has meant the country is now being sued by the European Union.

Swedish MP Maria Ferm from the Green Party says “All of this information probably will be in some case misused. It's endangering the foundations of what we see as a democracy or a free society.”

The law is meant to combat terrorism and Sweden should've been tracking calls since 2007, but parliament recently postponed it for yet another year. It is one of just five members standing up to Big Brother.

“The EU has been wrong in many cases before and also in this case. Of course we should chase criminals and combat terrorism, but we should not build up a Big Brother society,” states MP from Swedish Left Party Jens Holm.

Going under the radar could land Sweden a fine of up to €68 million, a small price to pay for a country that does not like being watched.

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Click to enlarge

It is not something you notice at first glance, but CCTV does not actually exist in Sweden. The only security cameras on the street are at cash points, but there are none in public places. That is how important and well-guarded privacy is in Sweden.

At the moment Sweden is free from the watchful gaze, but it is not about cameras – the data traffic can be stored for up to two years. It is already kept for three months by operators for billing reasons. They say that is long enough.

“The majority of the requests that are coming from law enforcement authorities actually concern communications which were made within the first three months, so it means it is really disproportionate,” says Thierry Dieu from European Telecommunications Network Operators Association.

The extra storage will cost operators an estimated €20 million in total.

“I would say it's a problem. It's a big burden for all operators,” insists Thierry Dieu.

“They say that they cannot give me 100 per cent guarantee that this information will not leak into the hands of where it should not be,” reveals MP Jens Holm.

Even the European Commission admits changes are needed. Its report last month found the right to privacy was being threatened.

“There is room for improvement in the current data retention directive. These shortcomings are sources of considerable concern for citizens and for industry,” announced EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström. “Hopefully, later this year we'll present amendments to this directive.”

It has taken Sweden four years just to get that far. There is a long way to go before David beats Goliath, but he is certainly not giving up yet.