the swedish FRA law and total surveillance in Europe

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT?Leafing through friends and fellow bloggers’ websites I came across Jim Barrett’s description of rallies against the Swedish FRA law in the small Northern town of Umeå. And that reminded me that I’d meant to write about this law, which has had the Swedish blogosphere in a state of uproar for weeks. You see, the EU has proposed various surveillance laws, to be adopted by member states, where all citizens’ activities online will be stored for up to 18 months, I think, purportedly so that the police can find terrorists and solve crime more easily. It’s easy to imagine other less worthy uses such total surveillance might enable – Europe is mostly pretty democratic today, but a Big Brother surveillance system like this makes totalitarianism easy, and makes civil resistance almost impossible – and totalitarianism in Europe is not that distant: my parents’ generation remember when Norway was occupied by the Nazis; I was still in high school when the Berlin wall fell. Certainly the movie industry will be happy to have such extensive data stored as well.

The biggest principle objection to the law is that suddenly, the government can spy on anyone. Previously, authorities had to have reasonable grounds to suspect that a person was guilty of a crime before they could get a warrant for this. That’s a pretty big shift in what we think of as fair.

The Swedish government just ratified their version of the law, the FRA law, where all cabled transmissions by telephone, fax and email are to be surveilled by the military. The website N?§tverket Stoppa FRA lagen has more information (in Swedish).

The Data Retention Direktive is Norway’s version of this law – which we may or may not be obliged to ratify, as members of the EEC.

The image above is by @nolifebeforecoffee at Flickr, and the stencil is by Banksy, in the underpass by Marble Arch in London.

01. July 2008 by Jill

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