Helsinki 25th November 2002
Press release
For immediate release
Electronic Frontier Finland - EFFI ry

EFFI: Finland proposes extensive data retention while the country's largest Telco executives arrested for data misuse

Electronic Frontier Finland - EFFI ry demands the Finnish government to change their position regarding the compulsory data retention in telecommunications. EFFI's chairman Mikko Välimäki shoots: "According to a document we have acquired, Finland demands that all telecommunications traffic data inside the EU should be retained for two years."

The Finland's largest telecommunications operator Sonera is currently under criminal investigation for suspected serious traffic data misuses. The police has imprisoned or is requesting an arrest warrant for six current or former Sonera executives, including the company's former CEO. (See e.g. Helsingin Sanomat 25.11.2002: Head of Sonera corporate communications arrested)

Välimäki continues: "You might think that the Sonera-case would have been a wake-up call for politicians: if data is available, it will be misused sooner or later. But no. Finland seems to push forward with exceptional Big Brother optimism."

EFFI emphasizes that the police can already request data retention if they have a valid reason to suspect a crime. The extension proposed by Finland would require logging traffic data consisting almost entirely of ordinary communications between citizens.

Ville Oksanen, international executive of EFFI, comments: "One should also remember that the stored traffic data could be used internationally. For example the Cybercrime treaty, signed by Finland, means that Finland has an obligation to give this kind of information to countries with judicial system not in par with European standards. Although the risk of misuse might be limited in Finland one cannot say the same for example of Albania, Azerbaijan or Russia."

Oksanen continues: "International organizations defending privacy have already questioned the Finnish initiative. As a newly accepted member of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign EFFI has had a lot to explain since the Finnish government has previously been in the frontline of defending its' citizens' right to privacy."

The EU initiative is unfortunately not the only legislative initiative that aims at compulsory data detention. The Finnish parliament is currently considering a law proposal that would impose a far-reaching data retention obligations also to Internet-based discussion groups in Finland.

"Traffic data measures in huge amounts. Storing it for years is not easy nor cheap," says Kai Puolamäki, PhD, an EFFI board member. Puolamäki continues: "A comprehensive obligatory data retention, like the one proposed now, increases the risk of misuse considerably. I would say the possible advantages of data retention are questionable - especially since skilled criminals can easily avoid this kind of surveillance."

"Think if somebody suggested that janitors should keep track of all visitors entering homes and write down their names. Their logs should be filed for two years, just in case", Puolamäki considers and continues: "The proposal is ridiculous. Unfortunately, when we talk about the Internet and politics, these kind of suggestions seem to be an every-day phenomena in modern-day Finland and the EU."

Additional information:

Memorandum by the Council of the European Union on 20 November 2002 (original version, does not work with all browsers)

Privacy and EFFI (in Finnish)

A document by EFFI on the proposed law on liabilities in public communications that also proposes a comprehensive data retention.

Mikko Välimäki
Chairman, Electronic Frontier Finland ry
+358 50 5980498

Ville Oksanen
Member of the Board, Electronic Frontier Finland ry
+1 415 572 0349

Electronic Frontier Finland - EFFI ry was founded in 2001 to defend active users and citizens of the Finnish society in the electronic frontier. EFFI influences legislative proposals concerning e.g. personal privacy, freedom of speech and user rights in copyright law. We make statements, press releases and participate actively in actual public policy and legal discussions. EFFI has been featured in the national media including TV, radio and leading newspapers. EFFI also works in close cooperation with organizations sharing the same goals and values in the Europe, United States and elsewhere. EFFI is a founding member of the European Digital Rights and a member of Global Internet Liberty Campaign. More information from EFFI's home pages: