Stockholm:Sweden has adopted contentious legislation that will give officials sweeping powers to eavesdrop on all e-mail and telephone traffic that crosses the Nordic nation’s borders.
After heated debate and last-minute changes, lawmakers approved the bill that has outraged some lawmakers and prompted protesters to hand out copies of George Orwell’s novel ‘1984´ outside Parliament.
Lawmakers approved the bill in a 143-138 vote. One lawmaker abstained. It will however become a law in January.
Google Inc and Swedish telecom TeliaSonera AB have called it the most far-reaching eavesdropping plan in Europe, comparable to a U.S. government surveillance programme.
“By introducing these new measures, the Swedishv government is following the examples set by governments ranging from China and Saudi Arabia to the U.S. government’s widely criticised eavesdropping programme,” Google’s global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer said.
Since the law was first proposed in 2005, in a country known and praised for its democratic principles, critics have slammed it, saying it would encroach on privacy and jeopardise civil liberties.
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Parliament yesterday in a last attempt to stop the law. Supporters say the legislation is needed to ensure safety against terrorist attacks in a high-tech society where advanced technology also is used by would-be attackers.
The new powers will give Sweden’s National Defense Radio Establishment the right to scan all international phone calls, e-mails and faxes for sensitive keywords without a court order.