Sahlin calls for privacy ombudsman

The Social Democrats want to create an ombudsman to help protect individuals’ privacy in Sweden, party leader Mona Sahlin told Sveriges Radio.

Sahlin calls for privacy ombudsman

As government agencies increasingly rely on electronic information, and more surveillance cameras are set up in public spaces, Sahlin believes that it’s time to seriously address the many threats to privacy found in today’s world.

“We now think there is a need to really take privacy threats seriously and establish an ombudsman which can monitor and sound the alarm when privacy isn’t respected. But it would also be someone to which individuals could turn for advice and to have their own cases taken up by an ombudsman,” Sahlin told Sveriges Radio.

Sahlin noted that the privacy debate that accompanied discussion of Sweden’s controversial surveillance law caused many Swedes to realize the various ways in which their privacy can be violated.

While the previous Social Democratic government was criticized for introducing a host of measures which gave police increased surveillance powers and instructed phone companies to store information about their customers’ calls, Sahlin emphasized that the trick is finding a healthy equilibrium.

“It’s not about giving up efforts to prosecute crimes or not using the technology society to uncover criminal activity, but there is always a balance,” said Sahlin.

“I’m the first to admit that [the Social Democrats] may not have always seen privacy issues as being sufficiently important. But the bigger technology society becomes, and the more technology use there is, the more we politicians today must make sure that individuals’ privacy is balanced all the time against society’s responsibility to watch out for and prosecute crimes. That ought to be aggregated at an ombudsman.”

Currently, Sweden’s Chancellor of Justice (Justitiekanslern – JK) and the Data Inspection Board (Datainspektionen – DI) both have a role in protecting people’s privacy, but Sahlin thinks gathering all the responsibility for privacy matters under one roof with an agency that has a clearly defined mission is a better solution.

“In part it’s about this aggregating of privacy issues, as what we’re saying is that there is no such place today,” she said.

“It has to be easier to have the right to protect one’s privacy.”