Norway poised to reject directive

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Norwegian politicians now look likely to vote against implementing a European Economic Area (EEA) directive on the storing of personal data – which would represent the first-ever Norwegian veto of an EEA decree.

Parliamentary debate on the controversial proposal, which would see traffic data on all electronic communication in the country stored for security purposes for between six and 24 months, began on Tuesday. The policy is thus far only supported by the largest parliamentary party, the Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet, Ap), with other parties either firmly opposing the bill or still to make up their minds.

One of the main groups opposed to the idea are journalists, who believe that the forced storage of data related to sources will make anonymous comments to the press more difficult. Journalist union leader Elin Floberghagen, speaking to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), stated her belief that it is “a threat to freedom of speech” and “critical journalism” that “undermines the privacy of anonymous sources.” The technology industry also fears that the directive will affect the use of electronic communication, with the leader of telecommunications interest group IKT claiming that “we still cannot see that the police’s alleged gain in the fight against crime is documented.”

The directive, which started out in the European Union (EU) after terrorist attacks in London and Madrid, has been made relevant for EEA countries, meaning that it should automatically become law in Norway. Nevertheless, the country has the power to veto EEA directives, which has never been used. The directive would see information on who sends and receives electronic data stored, although the actual content of telephone calls and emails would not be saved.

While seven individual members of parliament representing the Conservative Party (Høyre) have gone on record to say that they will definitely vote against, and more have suggested off the record to news agency NTB that they will follow suit, the party itself has yet to take a firm position. Party leader Erna Solberg confirmed to newspaper Aftenposten that the Conservatives “wanted national legislation for data storage and deletion,” but would wait until after further negotiations with Ap before making a decision.

Only 10 members of Høyre voting against would be required to defeat the bill, as other opposition parties are planning to resist, and Ap’s governing partners – the Socialist Left Party (Sosialistisk venstreparti, SV) and the Center Party (Senterpartiet, Sp) – have made their opposition part of the coalition’s founding post-election platform. NTB believes that Høyre, which Ap need on its side to pass any resolution, will announce its final official stand on the issue on March 10.

Views and News from Norway/Aled-Dilwyn Fisher
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