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State cashes in on personal information

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State cashes in on personal information
12:21 CEST+02:00
Government agencies are cashing in by selling personal information to advertising firms without Swedish citizens even knowing about it.

The Dagens Nyheter newspaper suggested the Transport Agency (Transportstyrelsen) was making as much as 30 million kronor ($4.5 million) a year as a result of the process. Both the National Tax Agency (Skatteverket) and the national board of student aid (CSN) are also sharing private details for a fee, the paper revealed.

"We have a mandate from the government to sell the data," said Kjell-Åke Sjödin of the Transport Agency's register.

Purchasing the personal details of Swedish citizens costs two kronor each but gets cheaper the more you purchase. If an agency buys them in bulk then the fee drops to just 50 öre each.

"It is entirely legitimate to ask why the authorities re-sell our records. It is not at all strange to be surprised and upset about it," said Anna Hörnlund who works as a lawyer for the Swedish data inspection board (Datainspektionen).

She added; "That the authorities provide further information under the principle of public access is a foundation stone of Swedish democracy. The systematic sale of registry records to advertising firms is something completely different."

Dagens Nyheter added that it was difficult to track down where the information sold by CSN went. CSN passes on details about their students to direct mail companies but their website does not say where they end up.

According to Swedish law the records can be distributed by these agencies under the principle of public access to official records (offentlighetsprincipen).

"It's not for us to to have a view on whether it's good or not, We follow the law. But we must of course assess and ensure the students privacy," said Johan Lindeberg, a lawyer and data inspection officer.

Citizens who don't want their details to be shared are advised to subscribe to the Nix registry or to contact the relevant authorities who may be selling their details.

TT/The Local/pr

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