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Ending the unjustified storage of private information by security services

Segerstedt-Wiberg and Others v. Sweden  | 2006

Ending the unjustified storage of private information by security services

This shows what we and many others in Sweden have said: you can’t keep recording in this way.

Bengt Frejd, as reported by SVT

Background

Five Swedes were watched by the Swedish secret services due to their political activities. Per Nygren, a journalist at the Gothenburg Post, had written several articles on Nazism and on the secret service. Ingrid Segerstedt-Wiberg was a prominent human rights activist. Bengt Frejd, Staffan Ehnebom and former European Parliamentarian Herman Schmid had been active on the political left in the 1960s and 70s.

All five complained that material about them was still being held by the security services. Some information had also been shared between public bodies. 

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The court ruled that the government‘s continued storage of personal surveillance information about Mr Ehnebom, Mr Nygren, Mr Frejd and Mr Schmid had not been justified. The material related to historical political activities, many of which had occurred over 30 years beforehand. The storage of the information had been disproportionate and had violated the applicants’ right to privacy.

Keeping certain information on Ingrid Segerstedt-Wiberg had been justified, to protect her against a threat to her life. However, she and the other four applicants had not been able to challenge other unjustified storage of information – in violation of their basic rights. 

While the court recognises that intelligence services may legitimately exist in a democratic society, it reiterates that powers of secret surveillance of citizens are tolerable under the convention only in so far as strictly necessary

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, 6th June 2006

Follow-up

A control agency was created in 2008. People can use this to discover whether they have been the subject of secret surveillance or the processing of personal data. They can also ask for information obtained by the government to be corrected or deleted.

In 2012 a new Police Law introduced regulations on data processing by the police and the Security Service.

All information about the applicants was deleted from the records of the Swedish Security Service.

Additional information