Business & Finance - Wednesday 6.11.2002
Police believe Sonera security unit illegally monitored telephone records for nearly a year
Case could involve hundreds of aggrieved parties
Investigators at Finland's central criminal police, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), suspect that the security
unit of the telecommunications company Sonera may have been illegally checking private telephone records for nearly a year.
- Helsinki District Court has ordered two members of Sonera's security staff remanded in custody for aggravated violation of
privacy in communications. According to the ruling, the two are suspected of having engaged in the illegal surveillance from
August 1, 2000 to May 31, 2001.
- This period of time is much longer than previously thought. Helsingin Sanomat had reported earlier that the Sonera security unit had been going through the telephone records of Sonera employees and some
outsiders from October 2000 through late February 2001.
- On Saturday Helsinki District Court ordered Sonera corporate security chief Juha E. Miettinen and another top member of Sonera's security staff to be remanded in custody. The court agreed with police that there was
probable cause to suspect that the two had committed a crime.
- The time of the alleged crime has also been set on the basis of the probable cause, which suggests that the police are likely
to have clear evidence of the sequence of events.
- According to the information obtained by Helsingin Sanomat, the Sonera security unit checked the telephone records of dozens of people. As each person made calls to many different
places, the records contained information of hundreds of phone numbers.
- Police sources say that if the case goes to trial, the owner of each of the telephone numbers involved could be seen as a potential plaintiff.
- In this sense, both the caller and the person being called can be seen as a victim of the crime. Before a possible trial,
police investigators would be obliged to inform each of the targets of the surveillance, and each one of them would be entitled
to be present at a possible trial.
- The Minister of Transport and Communications, Kimmo Sasi (Nat. Coalition), represents the largest owner of Sonera shares - the Finnish state. On Tuesday Sasi expressed his continued
confidence in Sonera's management, even though the internal investigations commissioned by Sonera appear to be at odds with
the findings of the National Bureau of Investigation.
- "The NBI has not yet come to any conclusions. The case is still under investigation. But it is naturally a very serious sign
that a person is remanded in custody. This means that there is reason to suspect that person of criminal activity", Sasi said
to the Finnish news agency STT.
- Sasi points out that the police investigation is taking place at Sonera's initiative.
- In fact, Sonera did not file a complaint until after Helsingin Sanomat had printed its story about the events just under a month ago. Already in late May, Helsingin Sanomat gave Sonera's management the basic information it had about the telephone record surveillance. This means that the company
would have had the whole summer to ask for a police investigation.
- Sonera CEO Harri Koponen has mentioned the investigation commissioned by Sonera and carried out by Pekka Harju, an outside lawyer. He had come to the conclusion that there had been some investigation of telephone records, but only within
the limits of the law. During the summer Harju also spoke with Juha E. Miettinen and the other person who was remanded in
custody, but no indication of illegal activities came up.
- Until Tuesday, Miettinen was still a member of a state consultative committee on information security issues, which is preparing a national data security strategy.
Miettinen's resignation from the committee came into effect on Tuesday when Sonera named Lassi Väisänen as Sonera's new representative on the body.
- The change took place following discussions involving the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Finnish Communications
Regulatory Authority (FICORA), and Sonera.
- FICORA Director-General Rauni Hagman said that Miettinen had not attended the committee's last two meetings. A number of questions were raised by his absence,
largely because Sonera had been making assurances all autumn that its data security issues were in order.
- Previously in HS International Edition:
- Sonera top security personnel remanded in custody (5.11.2002)
- Police to investigate use of telephone records at Sonera (24.10.2002)
- Communications Regulatory Authority not satisfied with Sonera report on telephone records (18.10.2002)
- Telecom companies utilise telephone records in differing ways (17.10.2002)
- Communications Regulatory Authority asks Sonera to explain HS claims (14.10.2002)
- Sonera security unit studies phone records to find corporate information leaks (11.10.2002)
- Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority (FICORA)
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