Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Invasion of Privacy

On 18 June the Swedish Parliament passed a law giving sweeping new powers to the FRA (Swedish Defense Radio Establishment) allowing them to wiretap people in Sweden through phone conversations, email, text messages and more.

All people in Sweden using electronic communication can have their communication monitored despite the fact that they are not suspected of committing any crime.

In my view this is in direct contravention of article 12 of the UN declaration on human rights to which Sweden is a signatory.
Article 12.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
This shameful law applies to me - if you send me email (I get a lot of emails from readers of this blog and of my books) then you should be aware of the fact that your mails are not private but will be read by FRA employees - so your rights will be violated.

The Swedish government is sensitive to foreign opinion so if you wish to protest about the fact that your privacy would be violated if you mail me then I suggest you send mail to one of the leaders of the four political parties (Maud Olofsson, Fredrik Reinfeldt, Jan Björklund, Goran Hagglund) that voted this law through. They can be contacted through The Prime Minister and Ministers.

I urge you to make your opinions known.

My daughter asked me:

Does this mean they will read my MSN chats?
I said "yes".
She said "that sucks"

I get pretty pissed off when they confiscate my water bottle when I have to travel by air, but I guess I can live with this but reading my email, and the email of my wife and kids is totally unacceptable. I would never read my wife's or kids' email - such behavior is totally unacceptable in a civilized society.

All this is done in the name of saving us from terrorism - after 9/11 western politicians promised that they would not allow acts of terrorism to change our way of life. Well, spying on 9 million people who have not broken the law is a funny way of "not changing our way of life."

This really pisses me off.

/Joe Armstrong

[In other areas Sweden is a pretty decent place to live, with decent human values, but this new legislation is totally unacceptable]

[Note also - all mail to the erlang mailing list will be monitored by FRA - if this upsets you then please mail the people responsible (see above). If this worries enough people we can move the list to a country that respects human rights]


Erik R. said...

Do you have a PGP public key? I understand that it's too difficult to make all your wife's and daughter's friends us PGP, but you could at least provide a way for your blog and book readers to contact you securely.

Just an idea. I agree that it sucks.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately more proof that Europe ends up doing everything the US does only a few years later.

Anonymous said...

I don't like the new swedish law. But at least your government invades your privacy under the authority of a law - which may be studied, debated and (hopefully) overturned.

Here in the usa our government reads our e-mail because Bush said so, even though it's against the law. Our president breaks our own privacy laws. Now that sucks.

Sincerely, Anonymous (somewhat)

Anonymous said...

For a really long time, to me Sweden was, for several reasons, a kind of a promised land. So many things are better than in the country, which I live in. I'm really disappointed about the new law. Like your daughter said, 'it sucks'!

olu said...

Did you read though the law three times?

Anonymous said...

one day there will be the law that will force you to give your private keys to the government ... of course it will be done in the name of increasing security

I'm not supprised that such a law is applied in the most social country in Europe ...

socialism can't be done without grabbing the freedom of the people...

giving away your right and freedom for the country's higher purpose is Fascism ...

George Orwell was a prophet.. that's sad

regards from Poland ( another country of slaves )

Anonymous said...

>> If this worries enough people we can move the list
>> to a country that respects human rights]

Having at least one Swedish guy subscribed to
the list would mean emails forwarded to that country

Anonymous said...

minutes_per_citizen(FraEmployees, Population) ->
% small calculation of average....

FRA is going to have about 1000 people working, resulting in about 10 minutes per year per citizen.

Anonymous said...


Governments always reach for power in times of war, perceived or otherwise. Come to think of it, they reach for power in times of peace too.


You're referring to FISA. You may actually want to read something about it:


The FISA bill goes through congress. The President is asking congress for this power. Congress doesn't have to grant it. The Supremes could overrule it. Such is the structure of our government. Note that some of the more controversial FISA power has existed since summer 2000, which was a different administration.

I swear, I can't read blog comments on any topic without someone whining about the Bush administration. It's pathetic. Get a life, people.

Shakeel Mahate said...

Sorry to hear that privacy is being violated in Sweden. Very soon we will have two classes of people, one who can have private conversations and rule the world and the rest will be subjugated, harassed, violated and be completely powerless.

Anonymous said...

can you please publish your gpg public key joe?

we (in austria) have similar laws passed. they allow the police to snoop your phone calls and even track you _without_ judge permission.

Jaims said...

So sorry to hear about all that.
Here in Spain, people's perception of countries like sweden is that they are the paradigm of democracy and a model for us to follow.

If things like that are happening in these countries, no room left for hope in this Europe.