Protection of confidential communications

The secrecy of confidential communications is a basic right, and violating the secrecy is a criminal offence. No one is allowed to process another person's messages or communications-related traffic data without permission. However, senders and intended recipients can process their own messages and the related traffic data as they wish. For example, everyone can record his or her own telephone calls.

The Constitution of Finland (section 10(2))

A message recipient is allowed to tell others about a message he or she has received and its contents unless the recipient is bound by a separately imposed obligation of secrecy. For example, a person working for an authority may be bound by a secrecy obligation based on the Act on the Openness of Government Activities.

In some situations, telecoms operators have to give the subscriber of the communications service and certain authorities information on a user's communications. Telecoms operators and corporate or association subscribers may process traffic data that are stored in their communications networks and connected to users' communications for the purposes laid down in the Act on Information Society Code.

Public communications

In addition to confidential communication, there is also public communication. Even in public communications traffic data is confidential. Telecoms operators and corporate or association subscribers participating in the transmission of communications are only allowed to process traffic data for the purposes laid down by law. They also have an obligation of secrecy concerning tarffic data.

A service provider operating a discussion forum or comparable services for publishing messages has the right to disclose traffic data related to the messages sent by participants if permission for this is included in the terms of contract of the service. The services are comparable to a newspaper's letters to the editor section which is also a forum for publishing texts under a writer's own name or a pseudonym.

The responsibility for the contents of a published message and the publishers' obligation to disclose the information sources or writers of anonymous messages are governed by law.

The Act on the Exercise of Freedom of Expression in Mass Media (460/2003)

Restrictions on the confidentiality of communications and punishments for message interception

The right to confidential communications may be restricted, for example, in the investigation of certain crimes.

The police have the right to intercept and monitor telecommunications when they investigate certain minor communications-related offences. Emergency service authorities are also entitled to obtain information on the location of the subscription of a user who has made an emergency call or is in danger.

The Coercive Measures Act and the Police Act
Information Society Code

Message interception is a crime. For example, is it punishable to unlawfully hack into the contents of a message which is protected from outsiders.

The Criminal Code of Finland (Chapter 38, section 3)


Key words: Information security, Internet, Data protection


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