Sonera trial: Relander admits knowledge of snooping, says he thought it was legal
Kaj-Erik Relander, the former CEO of the telecommunications service provider Sonera, admitted in Helsinki District Court on Thursday that he knew about the tracing of mobile phone calls by the company’s security unit.
Relander said that in October 2000 he spoke with Juha E. Miettinen, the head of the security unit, whom he asked to try to find the source of press leaks from within the company. Relander and Miettinen, as well as Sonera’s former communications chief Jari Jaakkola, are being charged with violation of telecommunications privacy.
"I understood from what Miettinen said that telephone records can be used in some manner, and I got the impression that this was the way the company operated", Relander said. He also said that he assumed that Miettinen was using legal means in his investigations.
The security unit ultimately traced the calls of dozens of Sonera employees, as well as those of two journalists of Helsingin Sanomat.
The sequence of events leading up to the trial began with a story in Helsingin Sanomat on October 19th, 2000 reporting the removal of Harri Vatanen, CEO of the Sonera subsidiary SmartTrust.
Relander said that after the story appeared he discussed the information leak problem with Markku Tolonen, Sonera’s Chairman of the Board.
Relander said that there was a wider problem related to SmartTrust. There had been break-ins at SmartTrust offices, and Relander feared that Vatanen, who had developed the company’s key information security inventions, might turn against Sonera.
Soon after the story appeared in Helsingin Sanomat, Relander got in touch with Juha Miettinen, the head of security, and it is at this point that the stories of the two defendants diverge.
Miettinen said that Relander had called him in a state of agitation and told him to do everything possible to clear up the information leaks, and that he could start by investigating the phone calls.
Relander said that he asked Miettinen into his office, and that Miettinen had suggested to him two possible ways to proceed: hiring a private investigator, or tracing telephone calls.
Relander claimed that he had ruled out the use of private detectives as too "heavy" and "intrusive", and the two opted for tracing phone calls. Miettinen says that there was no talk of using private investigators.
"I understood from what Miettinen said, that telephone call data can be used in some way, and I got the impression that this is how the company operated", Relander said in court.
He also said that he trusted that Miettinen would act within the law.
Relander’s defence asked Miettinen if the talk at the time was of "telephone call information" or "billing information", in which case the three last digits are not revealed.
"As I recall, he used the expression ‘call information’. There was nothing vague about it. It meant complete information about calls", Miettinen says.
Relander felt that an employer has the right to investigate if the tools provided by the employer are being used to hurt the company.
He also said that he had not instructed Miettinen on whose telephone information he should dig up. Instead, he told Miettinen to contact security chief Jari Jaakkola.
Jaakkola said that he recalled that Miettinen had called him the next day to discuss who might have information on questions related to SmartTrust.
Jaakkola says that it was his impression that employers have the right to see itemised telephone bills, in which the three final digits of each phone number are deleted. In Miettinen’s view, Jaakkola knew that the issue involved complete telephone numbers as well as e-mail information.
Jaakkola said that Miettinen also asked for contact information for the Helsingin Sanomat journalists in question, and that later on the same evening, Jaakkola e-mailed Miettinen the telephone numbers of the journalists, and the number of the newspaper’s exchange.
Miettinen says that he would not have known to ask the journalists’ names because he does not read newspapers.
Miettinen says that Jaakkola was especially interested in the contacts that his subordinates in the communications department may have had with the media. Jaakkola dismissed this claim as ridiculous, noting that keeping contact with journalists is part of the job of people working in the communications department.
Juha E. Miettinen remained steadfast in his view that not even the request to trace calls by the Helsingin Sanomat journalists made him suspect that anything illegal was going on. In his view, it was only during the police investigation into the snooping that it occurred to him that something "improper" might have taken place.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Relander defence: Sonera internal security investigation legal (3.3.2005)