Sweden: Lex Orwell

June 23, 2008 at 11:55 pm 2 comments

Sweden is more associated with the icy Björn Borg than throwing people into frenzied criticism.

But that’s just what they seem to have done with their new law giving its National Defense Radio Agency (FRA) the right to intercept all wired communications- including Internet traffic, email, SMS, faxes, and telephone conversations- at will and scan for keywords. So far, the FRA was limited to monitoring radio communications. The new law will allow FRA to monitor all traffic at the border, passing to or from or just through Sweden.

While the Swedish Government has cited the war on terror, FRA happens to be the agency that also has a global reputation for code breaking. It has its origins in intercepting and breaking encrypted transmissions from Nazi Germany. And, Sweden just happens to be a major transit country for cable traffic out of Finland, Russia, and the Baltic States.

Deputy PM Maud Olofsson can’t see why that’s such a big deal, “Sweden has always listened in as a means of ensuring we have the information we need to protect national security. I don’t think that’s a secret.” Sweden simply sees it as an appropriate response to external terrorist threats though most people call that a fig leaf for a more sinister agenda.

The new law, dubbed Lex Orwell, was delayed for a year and then passed narrowly after some last-minute political manoeuvring.

Google’s global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, has even gone so far as to club Sweden in the same privacy-invasive category as- wait for it- the US, “By introducing these new measures, the Swedish Government is following the examples set by governments ranging from China and Saudi Arabia to the US Government’s widely criticised eavesdropping programme.”

Even Kiwi commentator Bruce Simpson joined in the frenzy, “If I got blown up in a terror attack, I’d consider that a small price to pay for ensuring that my friends and family weren’t treated like criminals by their own government…I wonder how many others feel likewise but say nothing for fear of being seen as a traitor to ‘the war against terror’.”

Big words indeed.

But, with the Swedes intent on proving they are masters of security theatre, one can only sit back and watch in fascination as another nation steamrolls privacy in the name of security.

Entry filed under: government, personal_info, privacy, security. Tags: .

Banking on online identity verification Changing tracks

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