Today the Swedish Parliament came back from their extensive vacations, all sun-burned and shaking sand from their sandals, and got directly down to business. First order of duty: how to effectively spy on their own population.
You see, dear people, a new law comes into force on January 1, 2009, which gives the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment (the FRA) the right to intercept all electronic communications crossing Sweden’s borders. This includes your email and my mobile traffic and pretty much everything else sent as a stream of bits.
However, this is not as novel as it seems. It turns out that the Swedish state has been already doing this for years. The data is destroyed after 18 months but in the meantime any and all private exchanges passing the borders have been fair game for data trawling. So this law is simply “legalising” a practice already in place, and giving the FRA strict guidelines about how to carry out the government’s wishes.
This doesn’t cut it with the Swedes and the new law has risen quite a storm, especially since the Liberal alliance currently in change of Sweden are, as Liberals, supposed to be against exactly this kind of state interference in the private sphere. And despite essentially all of the youth sections of the main parties both sides being against this law, it nevertheless passed muster on June 18 this year with 143 votes to 138, one delegate abstaining, and 67 delegates not bothering to show up at all.
Fears are rife that this law will lead to less investment in Sweden and eventually undermine the government, as well as making the Swedish tradition of openness, integrity and dialogue a bit of an international joke.
And the best part is that any REAL terrorists using email will of course use data encryption (now freely available) or their own private codes. The only people the state will successfully spy on with this are its own citizens.
And of course on Russia, which sends a lot of electronic traffic via Sweden and is making this part of the world understandably jumpy lately with its tanks and guns and all.
And even though this law is being used by the opposition to damage the present government, it was in fact the previous Social Democratic led government who put forth the original proposition in 2007. Which makes it all the more amusing that the opposition leader Mona Sahlin has promised to tear up the new law if they come into power in 2 years from now. I guess politicians have short memories. Or scriptwriters with a developed sense of irony.
So watch what you say on the phone if you happen to call Sweden next year. And just remember to send all future correspondence to me on paper. Or maybe by smoke signal.