Finnish Parliament approves e-mail tracking law
(Associated Press WorldStream Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) HELSINKI_The Finnish Parliament approved controversial legislation Wednesday that allows employers to track workers' e-mails.
Lawmakers approved the government proposal in a 96-56 vote. Forty-eight were absent or abstained.
The new law, which is subject to the president's approval, does not allow employers to read employees' e-mails. But it gives them the right to track workers' e-mails by retaining information about such messages, including the recipients, senders and the time when e-mails have been sent or received.
It also allows them to see if e-mails contain attachments. If employers suspect a crime, they have to call in police to investigate.
Previously, the law was unclear regarding whether these practices were allowed.
Employers' organizations have strongly supported the law, saying it will help combat industrial espionage. Opponents say it will infringe on people's privacy.
"We must not be naive and imagine that corporate espionage does not happen here in Finland," Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said. "We must find ways of making that as difficult as possible." Local media dubbed the law "Lex Nokia" _ Latin for "Nokia's Law _ after news reports that the world's largest mobile phone maker had threatened to move its headquarters out of Finland if the legislation was not approved. Nokia has vehemently denied the accusations.
Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo last week described the law as "important to Nokia," but denied having put any pressure on decision-makers.
"No, we have certainly not been guilty of threats, pressure or anything of that nature," Kallasvuo said in an interview on Finnish YLE TV on Feb. 25. "We have not been actively involved in this question." A few hundred demonstrators protested outside Parliament when lawmakers began to debate the new legislation last month.
"Lex Nokia, full of mistakes; we don't want a police state," the crowds chanted.
The government proposal for the new law was brought to Parliament in an effort to improve data legislation dating from 2004 which both opponents and proponents said was unclear.
"What we are doing here is using 10 paragraphs to specify what employers can do and what they can't do," said Kimmo Sasi, chairman of the parliamentary constitutional committee. "In this way, it's clearer for both employers and employees." It was not immediately clear when the new law would take force.
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