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[FYI] (Fwd) FC: EU data directive bans church teacher, dog owner Swedish web sites

------- Forwarded message follows -------
Date sent:      	Fri, 09 Jun 2000 09:06:01 -0400
To:             	politech@vorlon.mit.edu
From:           	Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
Subject:        	FC: EU data directive bans church teacher, dog owner Swedish web
Copies to:      	jpalme@dsv.su.se
Send reply to:  	declan@well.com


Date: Fri, 9 Jun 2000 12:10:09 +0200
From: Jacob Palme <jpalme@dsv.su.se>
Subject: Interpretation of the EU data directive

Here is a report on how the EU data directive (which all EU
countries must implement) has been interpreted in Sweden.
For more information, see

How the Swedish Data Inspection Board has chosen to
interpret the law based on the EU directive is shown by
some test cases.

In the first case, a person who felt that a large Swedish
bank had wronged him, published a web page with the title
"Swedish Anti-Bank Activity". On this page, he named a
number of bank directors, who, in his opinion, had acted in
ethically unacceptable ways. He was prosecuted, and
sentenced to fines. This decision was upheld, on appeal, by
the first appelate instance. The second appelate instance,
the Swedish Highest Court, has not yet decided on this
case. One issue which the Swedish Highest court will look
like is if you can really regard a web page in the Swedish
language to be exported outside Europe, just because the
page is formally available to any Internet user, also
outside Europe. The lower courts, however, said "yes" on
this issue.

In the second case, an animal-rights organisation published
a list of fur producers in Sweden. This case has not yet
been decided on by the Swedish courts.

I a third case, a confirmation teacher wrote a web page,
describing the vicar, the chairman of the church board and
some other people. She did mention, for one of them, that
he had broken a leg and for another person, that she was a
member of the socialdemocratic party. Such information is
especially sensitive according to the act. She was
prosecuted for this, the court decision is not yet ready.

In a fourth case, some dog lovers on a web page criticized
the democracy of a certain dog owners society, including
mention of certain criticized people, which according to
the web page owner should be substituted in the board of
the society.

Looking at the way the law is used, one can see that
unpopular or controversial opinions are suppressed. In at
least the first case, it might be possible that the laws on
slander could be used instead, but these laws are more
restrictive than the personal data act. It also seems that
it is not permitted to criticize a named individual on the
Internet in Sweden.

In the case of the animal-rights organisation, one might
guess (though this is not written anywhere) that this
organisation published names of fur manufacturers in order
to give information to people performing illegal acts of
sabotage against fur farms. And one might guess, that this
is the real reason why the personal data act is used, even
if this is not officially said. This case has not yet been
decided by the courts, but the Data Inspection Board has
asked a prosecutor to prosecute it.

In a fifth case, the Swedish telephone directory is not
available on the Internet for anyone. The reason for this
is that in that case, people in countries without adequate
security protection might access to phone directory.
However, people living in Sweden can get a personal account
and password, and can then access the telephone directory
from the Internet. Also, the yellow pages are available to
anyone, it is only the white pages which are unavailable
outside Sweden.

One should note, however, that these are exceptional cases.
In almost all other cases, the Data Inspection Board has
chosen not to act. Note that in all the three cases above,
the page did not only contain information about a single
individual, it contained lists of names of people. So maybe
the act is unofficially not applied to mention of single
individuals, although the act itself makes no such
distinction. Also, the Data Inspection Board mostly acts
when someone complains to them. So a probable reason why we
have relatively large freedom of speech on the Internet may
simply be that no one bothers to complain to the
Inspectorate of web pages they do not like.
Jacob Palme <jpalme@dsv.su.se> (Stockholm University and KTH)
for more info see URL: http://www.dsv.su.se/jpalme/

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