Chancellor of Justice criticises controversial proposal for “Lex Nokia”
E-mail information snooping law expected to pass
Chancellor of Justice Jaakko Jonkka feels that proposed legislation that would allow employers to check up on the contact information of employee e-mail - the so-called “Lex Nokia” - is problematic.
“I doubt if all of the situations in which the manual handling of identification information is being proposed, would be legally justifiable. I also doubt that the right of access to the information has been sufficiently specified”, Jonkka says, and observes that he already said the same thing in the spring of this year to the Ministry of Transport and Communications, which was drafting the bill.
This means that Jonkka largely agrees with the law professors who recently testified before the Parliamentary Constitutional Law Committee. They said that Lex Nokia unnecessarily weakens fundamental rights, while giving corporate managers - employers - excessive leeway. Private companies would be given more authority to snoop on employees than the police have, and they would be able to do so without obtaining a warrant.
The Constitutional Law Committee decided in November that the proposed amendment to the law on the protection of electronic communications does not violate the constitution, and that it can therefore be passed as an ordinary law. The legal experts felt that procedure for a constitutional amendment would be required.
The proposed legislation is currently in Parliament, being handled by the Transport and Communications Committee. The measure is expected to come before the full Parliament for a vote in mid-December. Its passage is nearly certain, as the government parties have agreed on the matter.
The Chancellor of Justice and the Parliamentary Ombudsman are the highest monitors the activities of public officials to make sure that laws are followed.
The Chancellor of Justice determines if actions by the government and the president are in accordance with fundamental rights and human rights.
In the spring Jonkka decided that there is no legal impediment to the government proposal. Before that, there was a lengthy exchange of views between the Office of the Chancellor of Justice and the Ministry of Transport and Communications. In January, the proposal was removed from the government’s agenda at the insistence of Jonkka’s office.
“Our starting point is that the government’s proposal can be sent to Parliament, because it contained a statement on the handling of the matter in the Constitutional Law committee. Changes that we demanded were made to the proposal.”
The right to confidential communications is a fundamental right guaranteed under the Finnish constitution, as well as by the European treaty on human rights.
Jonkka says that it would be worth noting what the law professors said on the matter. “They have the most time and expertise to acquaint themselves with the matters. We must be very cautious when restricting fundamental rights”, Jonkka says.
Under the proposal, a corporate subscriber to e-mail would be allowed to follow employees’ e-mail correspondence to see who is sending messages to whom, but not to read the content of the messages themselves.
The right would also be given to universities, offices, libraries, and even apartment buildings with their own communication network. In addition to e-mail, the right to monitor contacts would also apply to IP services such as Internet telephone calls and instant messaging.
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)
Legal experts say “Lex Nokia” violates constitution (20.11.2008)
”Lex Nokia” gets blessing from Constitutional Law Committee (14.11.2008)