The Swedish Pirate Party (piratpartiet) held rallies across Sweden in an attempt to bolster support for strengthening personal privacy. The events, in MalmÃ¶ and Stockholm, were aimed at raising awareness of a new bill due next week.
The bill is part of Sweden’s implementation of an EU directive aimed at reducing privacy, for the oft touted aim of ‘security’ , the security of the intangible State, that is, rather than the individual securities of the citizenry.
In short, every communications network operator will have to log and store data about all of their users. Whilst the contents of the messages are not currently expected to be stored, everything from the IDs of either end of the communication, anything to identify the type of equipment used, the time and length of the call, and, perhaps most importantly, the location of cellular telephone handsets when used.
The Piratpartiet‘s Rick Falkvinge stresses this last point as a large privacy concern. “We’re rapidly descending into a surveillance society. We know exactly where this road leads – we’ve seen it in Europe’s recent history. When the Berlin wall came down, we were rejoicing that the oppressed Eastern bloc would become like Western democracies. It was never supposed to be the other way around.”
What makes things even more uncertain, is that at present no-one knows how long the Swedish bill will require information to be held. The EU Directive states anywhere from 6 to 24 months. Of equal uncertainty is the legal threshold for obtaining information stored under these measures.
Speakers at the MalmÃ¶ rally included Swedish IP entrepreneur Jonas Birgersson, CEO of ISP Bredband2, as well as the annonymiser Relakks, whilst Stockholm had Falkvinge, and other Pirate Party board members.
The demonstration echo’s similar protests in other European countries, such as the 15,000 that marched in Berlin in late September. More demonstrations are due in Germany on the 6th in more than 30 cities. With information like this being stored, it will potentially magnify the guilty until innocent approach already being used in file sharing trials. If the jury in the Thomas trial had been shown a record of a communication logged through such a system, they may have pressed for even higher damages per song. The major drawback with these systems, however, was pointed out in a recent court motion by the Oregon Attorney General , whilst you can identify the technological devices used, that still doesn’t identify the person using it. Furthermore, in any well planned criminal incident (which covers terrorism) it’s not unknown to use equipment which does not belong to you. Stolen credit cards, false numberplates, cloned cell phones. As with DRM, it only causes problems, without solving any.