Minister Viitanen: Internationally binding rules for data protection

Ministry of Transport and Communications
Publication date 10.6.2013 14.25
Press release

According to Finland's Minister of Housing and Communications Pia Viitanen, the alleged incidents of Internet spying practiced by the United States intelligence authorities are an international problem in which matters of privacy and national security are at odds.

"International cooperation and discussion on rules are needed to resolve the situation. I support the initiative by European data protection authorities to investigate the matter together with the European Commission. It is important to establish in more detail what type of surveillance was in question and how it affected the data protection of citizens, Ms Viitanen said.

"I will also be in contact with Commissioner Neelie Kroes to ensure that data protection is a top priority in the legislative reform concerning the telecom market in the EU.

People must be able to trust that their messages are private also on the Internet, even when a foreign company maintains the web server," Ms Viitanen emphasised.

"It is problematic that legislation other than Finland's own must often be applied to communications services provided in Finland. These laws are not always as comprehensive with regard to data protection of citizens as those we have in place in Finland.

According to Finland's Constitution, opening any confidential message without justification is a criminal act; be it an email, text message, letter or phone call.

"Disclosure of information from Finland for the purpose of Internet surveillance or spying is illegal. The Data Protection Ombudsman and the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority (FICORA) are responsible for monitoring compliance with this law. Their task is to resolve, for example, any judicial issues that may come up in relation to Google's Hamina-based server," said Ms Viitanen.

"At my lead, the Ministry of Transport and Communications is preparing a Code for Information Society and Communications Services, which will increase the accountability of foreign communications companies in matters of data protection," Ms Viitanen explained.

"We must also work to raise citizens' awareness of data security issues. Every Internet user should be aware that online communications are not secure everywhere. FICORA is continuously and actively working to ensure data security," Ms Viitanen said.

Further information:

Mr Juhapekka Ristola, Director General, tel. 0400 788 530