”Lex Nokia” gets blessing from Constitutional Law Committee
According to a statement issued by Parliament's Constitutional Law Committee, an amendment to the Act on Data Protection of Electronic Communications may be passed through the normal legislative process.
The so-called ”Lex Nokia” - also known as the ”snooping law” - would allow employers to investigate the log data of employees’ e-mails, if the company has reason to suspect that corporate secrets are leaking out of the company or that the employer’s communication networks are being misused.
However, the employer would not be allowed to look into the content of the messages themselves, but only to examine the e-mail log including the information on the senders, the recipients, and the size of employee messages as well as the volume of traffic and other matters relating to the company’s e-mail usage.
Hence the new law would not be in violation of the Act on Protection of Privacy in working life, which stipulates that the employer must not endanger the secrecy of private and confidential messages, said the Constitutional Law Committee, chaired by Kimmo Sasi (National Coalition Party).
However, the Committee stressed firmly that a company can be allowed to investigate the e-mail log only after it has taken all other legal measures to prevent potential wrongdoing.
This requirement is stipulated by the law, but the Committee nevertheless wanted to emphasise that such measures take priority over any other course of action.
The Committee noted further that log data on e-mail messages can be monitored only after it has become evident that there is no other way to investigate a suspected leak of corporate secrets.
The Constitutional Law Committee also wants to add some details to the new act in order to specify what exactly is regarded as a corporate secret and what "unauthorized use" means.
Moreover, the rules of surveillance will have to be agreed upon with employees, and the Data Protection Ombudsman has to be informed of such security operations in order that he can monitor the the legality of the activities.
The new Act will supplement the existing Act on the Protection of Privacy in Electronic Communications.
The preparation of the amendment reportedly started when the international mobile telephone manufacturer Nokia launched an investigation into private e-mail correspondence of its personnel in 2005, in order to find out if business secrets were leaking out of Nokia to the company’s main competitors. Nokia then gave the log data to police.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) were approached with requests that they investigate the matter. However, no police investigation concerning Nokia’s snooping activities was launched, nor was any criminal complaint filed. The NBI felt that no laws had been violated.
In 2006, the preparation of the Act was restarted when several legal experts felt that the proposal was too loose. At the same time, a number of Members of Parliament have also complained that the proposal in its present form would give employers rather extensive authorisation.
The Transport and Communications Committee, chaired by Martti Korhonen (Left Alliance) is continuing the preparation of the new Act.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Nokia snooped on employee e-mail communications in 2005 (9.6.2008)
Prosecutor: Nokia dug up e-mails in effort to plug information leaks in 2000-2001 (18.4.2006)
Government proposal on employers´ rights to employee e-mail information sparks controversy (25.4.2008)