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Chapter: 

IV. Governance issues

E-government

The Population Register Centre is also working with mobile operators to design a smart card suitable for remote electronic voting. The Ministry of Justice introduced e-voting at polling stations in three municipalities for the 2008 municipal election.1 It was expected that electronic voting would be available throughout Finland by 2009.2 An electronic ID card or other certification was used with the goal of protecting voter identity.3 Several organisations are critical of electronic voting, citing increased potential for error and loss of voter confidence in the democratic process.4 In June 2008, Electronic Frontier Finland (EFFi) released a shadow report on e-voting that argued that ensuring reliable results would be "extremely difficult."5 The English translation of the report was released in September of the same year.6 Effi had asked the Ministry of Justice for information about the e-voting system in February 2008, but was denied access to it the same month due to government concerns over trade secrets.7

The pilot of the full e-voting sytem took place in October 2008 in the Finnish elections of three municipalities (namely Karkkila, Kauniainen, and Vihti).8 In November 2008, the Ministry of Justice announced that 232 votes were prematurely aborted during the launch on account of usability errors in conjunction with unclear instructions.9 Additionally, many complained of the risk of a breach of voter anonymity due to the electronic ballot box's archival rules.10 The Helsinki Administrative Court ruled in January 2009 that the election met the requirements of Finnish election law, requesting that municipal authorities confirm the results.11 The decision went up to the Finnish Supreme Administrative Court, which overturned the lower court's decision, holding that the voter instructions and user interface of the terminals were both flawed.12 The Supreme Administrative Court held that the elections had to be renewed in each of the participating municipalities.13 New elections were held on 6 September 2009 using the traditional paper voting system.

As a result, the Ministry of Justice prepared a memorandum on the e-voting experiment, compiled with 30 statements from various organisations, political parties, and authorities,14 and held a public consultation on the otakantaa.fi platform. The cabinet eventually decided not to pursue the development of electronic voting for the time being.15 It was also agreed that close attention would be paid to the development of electronic voting in other countries.

Open government

The Act on the Openness of Government Activities replaced the Publicity of Official Documents Act of 1951.16 It provides for a general right to access any document created, sent, or received by a government agency, including electronic records. Finland is a country that has traditionally adhered to the Nordic tradition of open access to government files. In fact, the world's first Freedom of Information act dates back as far as the Riksdag's (Swedish Parliament) 1766 Access to Public Records Act. This Act also applied to Finland, then a Swedish-governed territory.17

The Act, most of which came into force in December 1999, also contains provisions on privacy.18 Chapter 6 of the Act exempts from public disclosure government documents containing data on the annual income or net worth of a person, documents containing information on a secret telephone number or information on the location of a mobile communications device, and documents revealing a person's place of residence, telephone number, or other contact information if the person has asked that the information be kept secret and is justified in believing that disclosure would endanger himself or his family.19 The latest amendments to the Act tighten the confidentiality of governmental documents, including the criminal and penalty records and the documents relating to election funding of Parliament candidates.20

Other developments

In December 2008, the Finnish Science and Technology Policy Council, which became the Research and Innovation Council at the beginning of 2009, adopted the "Review 2008," which outlines policy on education, science, technology, and innovation.21

On 28 January 2009, Finland celebrated Data Protection Day with a theme of "Raising Awareness," focused on finding ways to improve citizen awareness of data protection issues.22

Non-government organisations' advocacy work

Nothing to report.

International obligations and International cooperation

Finland is a member of the Council of Europe (CoE) and has signed and ratified the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (Convention No. 108).23 Finland has signed and ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.24 Finland signed the CoE Convention on Cybercrime in November 2001.25 Finland ratified the convention on 24 May 2007, and went into force on 1 September 2007.26 Finland is also a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and has adopted the OECD Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data.


Footnotes