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GOVERNMENT

Curb on online income snoopers moves closer

The Swedish parliament's Constitutional Committee has approved a law change that will make it harder to find out other people's incomes online.

The proposal aims to place restrictions on the users of services providing online credit reports on individuals. Those who want credit information this way must have a “legitimate need for information” under the government’s Council on Legislation’s (Lagråd) changes.

In the future, the person whose information is being sought must also be informed about what has been disclosed. According to Ask, the changes will protect individuals privacy better than current means.

One consequence of the law is that it would be harder for journalists to investigate the finances of public figures such as politicians, newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported.

Social Democrat Thomas Bodström, a former justice minister, has been very critical of the proposal. He told Expressen that the new law, by extension, implies “a breeding ground for corruption.”

“The Moderates do not want to disclose contributions to political parties and now they do not want us to investigate individuals,” Bodström told Expressen. “To further limit transparency is deeply unfortunate. There is nothing better than transparency against corruption.”

The case will now proceed to the finance committee, which also has a centre-right majority. Sweden’s parliament, the Riksdag, will debate and vote on the issue in June.

The right-wing majority in the constitutional committee would like to delay the change so that it begins at year-end, instead of as scheduled in August.

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GOVERNMENT

Governments including Sweden’s see support tumble for their handling of COVID-19, survey shows

Governments are fast losing support for their handling of the coronavirus outbreak from a public that widely believes death and infection figures to be higher than statistics show, a survey of six countries including Sweden revealed on Saturday.

Governments including Sweden's see support tumble for their handling of COVID-19, survey shows
Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven (L) speaks with Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen during an EU summit in Brussels on July 20, 2020. AFP

Support for the federal government of the United States, the country with the most reported infections and deaths, dropped by four percentage points from mid-June, with 44 percent of respondents declaring themselves dissatisfied, said a report by the Kekst CNC communications consulting group.

In Britain, just over a third of respondents approved of their government's actions, a three-point decline in one month, according to the report, based on an opinion poll conducted over five days in mid-July. 

It also included France, Sweden, Japan and Germany.

“In most countries this month, support for national governments is falling,” the report said.

The notable exception was France, where approval rose by six percentage points, yielding a dissatisfaction rate of 41 percent.

France, which has the world's seventh-highest COVID-19 toll, has all but emerged from lockdown but has seen infections increase in recent days, prompting the government to order face masks in all enclosed public spaces.

In Sweden, which took a controversial soft approach to lockdown and has a higher toll than its neighbours, the prime minister's approval rating has shrunk from a positive seven percent to a neutral zero, the poll found.

'Resigned'

People who participated in the survey —  1,000 per country polled — generally believed the coronavirus to be more widespread, and more deadly, than official figures show.

“Despite relatively low incidence rates compared to earlier in the pandemic in most countries (with the exception of the US), people significantly overestimate the spread and fatality rate of the disease,” Kekst CNC said.

In Sweden and Britain, the public believed that six or seven percent of people have died from the coronavirus, about 100 times the reported rate.

In the United States, respondents estimated that almost a tenth of the population had died of the virus, more than 200 times the real toll, while Germans thought their tally was 300 times higher than what has been reported.

Such views, said the report, “will be impacting consumer behaviour and wider attitudes — business leaders and governments will need to be conscious of this as they move to restart economies and transition into living with coronavirus for the medium to longer term.”

The poll also revealed that fear of a second outbreak wave is growing, and that an ever larger number of people believe the impacts will last for more than a year.

People “are becoming resigned to living with coronavirus for the forseeable future, and looking to leaders and business to pave the way forward,” the report said.

They are also increasingly likely to prioritise limiting the spread of the virus even if the economy suffers.

“In the US, 54 percent want the government to prioritise limiting the spread of the virus over protecting the economy,” it said.

The poll found that mask-wearing was generally popular, except in Sweden, where only about 15 percent of people sport a face-covering in public.

Even in the United States, where mask-wearing has become a politically polarising issue, 63 percent of respondents said they were in favour.

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