Minister proposes own data directive

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Debate has been swirling for months over whether Norway should implement the EU’s controversial Data Retention Directive, and now a government minister is proposing Norway’s own version. Her move seems unlikely to calm fears of public snooping in private affairs.

Magnhild Meltveit Kleppa, shown here after being named Transport Minister in Jens Stoltenberg's government, has come up with a data retention initiative that may not please the prime minister. PHOTO: NRK

The EU directive, called datalagingsdirektiv in Norwegian, was meant to “harmonize” EU member states’ means of storing communications data. Its goal has been to fight terrorism and serious crime by demanding retention of phone call records, e-mail and electronic message transmissions. Only the time and identities of those behind the communications would be retained, with the EU insisting that its directive is not concerned with the content of the communications involved.

The directive nonetheless has sparked protests, not least in Norway, because of “Big Brother” fears that government authorities could track private communications. Two of Norway’s three government coalition parties oppose compliance with the directive while the dominant Labour Party supports it, but thus must get the support of the opposition Conservative Party to win approval in Parliament.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported Wednesday that Transport Minister Magnhild Meltveit Kleppa, who also is responsible for communications issues in Norway, proposes a new, Norwegian version of the directive that would better secure individual privacy while also satisfying the needs of anti-terror authorities and the police in crime investigations.

“I want to take the initiative for a compromise, based on Norwegian needs,” Kleppa told Aftenposten. Kleppa, from the anti-EU Center Party, admitted that she hadn’t taken up her initiative with government colleagues yet.

Details of her plan remained sketchy, but she said personal privacy would need more protection and journalists would get clearer means of protecting their sources. She is especially opposed to any attempt to include storage of Internet search requests, which, for example, would allow investigators to see which web sites individuals searched for through Google or other search engines. 

Labour and Justice Minister Knut Storberget have been working hard to win acceptance for the EU directive, and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg doesn’t want to exercise Norway’s veto right to block its implementation. Kleppa’s initiative has questionable chances for success, with many opponents of the EU directive also opposing any attempts at prescribed storage of electronic information.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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