Originally published in Berlingske, 5 May 2014
Big things are happening in Denmark.
This week we’ve heard that the Danish weekly Se & Hør paid for access to the highly confidential private records of politicians and celebrities, subjecting the Danish elite to the same suspicionless surveillance ordinary citizens are facing every day from today’s dangerously out-of-control spying services.
Former MP Morten Helveg Petersen remarked:
I’m very disturbed. The notion that someone has monitored by credit card transactions… I almost don’t know what words to use. If that is the case, then I want the police to investigate the matter. […] It’s a blatant violation of every rule on the subject, [and] of my rights. This is very fundamental, following Snowden [‘s disclosures].
The Se & Hør allegations are a reminder that until the Folketing takes action to get to the bottom of the mass surveillance problem, our rights are risk. Anybody who writes an email in Aarhus, uses a credit card in Odense, or calls their mother in Copenhagen will have their private records intercepted, analyzed, and stored not just by unaccountable State Security Bureaus, but even private companies and newspapers.
The good news is that parliament has the power to act, and worldwide public support for ending mass surveillance has never been higher. The European Court of Justice just declared the key directive supporting mass surveillance unlawfully interferes with respect for private life and the protection of our personal data.
Even in the US, where politicians claimed that “strong oversight” meant NSA’s mass surveillance would never be abused (before it was revealed that the NSA had secretly done exactly that), fully 70% of the public now agrees protecting our right to privacy is more important than spying, and that consensus is still increasing. And in an online poll conducted by Politiken nearly nine out of ten Danes — an almost total consensus — believe that the information I returned to the public showed that Denmark should grant asylum to whistleblowers who risk their safety on behalf of the public interest.
Denmark’s parliamentarians haven’t yet had a chance to show whether their votes represent the public’s will, but that day is coming. The SF Party’s Karina Lorentzen has proposed a public inquiry into this kind of spying, and ‘s B 69 Asylum bill (Alternativet / Enhedslisten) is due for a vote at any time. At the end of the day, I appreciate the support for asylum, and the people of Denmark will always have my gratitude, but my first goal has always been surveillance reform, not personal safety. I witnessed the rights of citizens worldwide being violated on a massive scale, and I knew what it would take to restore accountability to government: I raised my voice.
Now it’s time to raise your voice, and free Denmark from suspicionless surveillance. Call your representatives and ask if they stand with the citizens or the spies.