Swede fined for personal information on church members

by Andy Oram

Related link: http://www.curia.eu.int/en/actu/communiques/cp03/aff/cp0396en.htm

Sweden has long been a leader in the implementation of Europe's
privacy directive. Back in 1998 I
on a controversial application of its very strict privacy law. A very
similar case was recently circulated and is described in the featured
URL for this blog.

I think the issues raised by this case, as well as the 1998 one,
should be carefully examined. Let me give a bit of background here.

In sharp contrast to the United States, Europeans have been passing
comprehensive laws for decades to restrict what governments and
companies can do with people's data. This is partly because Europe has
a more intrusive regulatory environment in general, but partly because
the Nazi experience made the European public conscious of the
importance of privacy and the potential results of its violation.

The current state of legal privacy is reflected in a European
Parliament directive of 1995 that was supposed to go into effect in
laws passed by members of the European Community in 1998. The Swedish
law is very strict one and, as you can see, is strictly interpreted.

Given a directive aimed at abuses by large institutions, it is easy to
scoff at the enforcement of the law against a woman reporting on the
activities of fellow church-goers. But the case alerts us that the
world of data and publishing has changed. A casual mention on a
personal Web site is a big deal, and the court is merely recognizing

My daughter recently did a Web search for herself, and was surprised
to discover that she can be found on the Web. In fact, her picture was
on the Web thanks to someone who had snapped photos at a casual town
event and posted them with captions. We are not particularly happy
that a girl's name, photo, and approximate location can be found on
the Web without her decision. I am not ready to go all the way and
call for Swedish-style law enforcement, but I think we should all be
more aware of what we're doing online.

How does one balance privacy and availability of information?


2003-11-20 16:14:39
I agree
I had started posting my own weblog online and figuring that I would only tell a few people about it. I added he necessary features to be sure that search engines do not index it. Well, I was using iBlog for the Mac to post all of my weblogs and didn't realize one sneaky option in the preferences to ping weblogs.com whenever I updated my weblog and RSS feed.

Soon enough, I had sites posting my updates on their websites, and one site (which happened to post nude photos of women everyday) had my site posted on their's. Needless to say, it ended up that my name was associated with their porn-laden site, and I was very upset. Yes, it was my fault for not turning off the option in my Preferences, but seriously, when was it ok to list personal weblogs on anyone's site without really being asked if this was ok? Something just doesn't seem right to me.

2003-12-07 22:42:14
I agree
Hello? You must be new here. This is called "the Internet". Its public. If you post something, I can post a link to it, even if I run the raunchiest nastiest child porn child from my server in Amsterdam where its legal. And you can't complain to anyone about it.

You can change link names, and modify Apache conf files to limit access when coming from a set of IPs or as a link from a particular site etc, but unless you put a password or equivalent on your site to restrict access, this is how it works. Get over it... or stop blogging & living online.

As for organizations posting personal information online, I think they should be restricted in how much they can post. It should be my choice to post my mailing address, home phone # etc only IF I WANT not left to another person/group to post whenever they feel like it.