Euro-IR Project Main Index

The APC European Internet Rights Project

Country Report — Finland

by Annamari Turunen
Assistant in Legal Informatics
Institute for Law and Informatics
Faculty of Law
University of Lapland

Finland as a Network Society

Any assessment of network societies today hinges on two factors. The first is the amount of Internet access and the other the amount of telephone/mobile phone connections.1

In Finland the aim has been to develop a network society in accordance with fundamental rights, so that no-one is disadvantaged because of where they live, their age, whether they are in business or a private individual, etc.. This is also at the core of Finnish electronic transactions policy, being based on the decision-in-principle of the Council of Ministers on electronic transactions, development of services and reduction in 1998.2

The emphasis has been on researching and emphasizing the social and economic effects of ICT. The most characteristic element of the network society is the amount of technology used, and most significantly the use of digital data, the development of information networks and the spread of network connections.3

These trends can be seen statistics for phone connections. In August 1998 Finland became the first country where more than 50% of the population had access to a mobile phone. By December 1998 the number of mobile phones exceeded that of land lines. In May 2000 55% of the population had a conventional telephone connection and more than 70% had a mobile phone.4

Another indicator of trends in a network society is the amount of computers with Internet access. In January 2000 12.1% of people in Finland had such access, rapidly growing by July 2000 to 13.5%.5

Technological developments had also opened up opportunities to business. 72 % of allbusinesses use e-mail or the Internet on a daily basis. The most popular way of using the Internet so far has been to present company (56 %) or product (51 %) information. Only 35 % used the Internet for customer services in 2000.6

This is the technological basis for Finnish Internet rights and access. However, developing technology must also take account of people’s needs. It is essential to contain technological development within the constitutional rights of individuals.

Constitutional Rights and Essential Infrastructure

The legislative framework is just as important as Finland’s technological status in terms of Internet rights. Finnish legislation provides the necessary infrastructure for fundamental rights through the Constitution of Finland (Perustuslaki, here also PeL).7

According to the Constitution fundamental rights and liberties must be guaranteed for everyone (PeL 22').8

Freedom. The core of fundamental rights is based on the freedom assured to everyone (PeL 7'). Everyone has the right to life, personal liberty, integrity and security. Freedom also means the freedom not to act or make commitments and security is a prerequisite for this.

Equality. Everyone also has the right to equality (PeL 6'), regardless of where they live, their age or education. The weak must be protected in order to ensure equality as well as freedom of action for everyone. Freedom and equality are in this way bound together.

Confidentiality. Confidentiality is necessary for the proper functioning of remote relationships in a network society. Confidentiality also ensures the maintenance of other constitutional rights. The most important fundamental right here is the right to privacy (PeL 10') particularly as it is expressed in rights to data protection. The privacy of correspondence, telephone and other confidential communications is inviolable.

Transparency. Transparency underlies the right to freedom and is expressed in the principles of openness and freedom of speech (PeL 12'), as it also forms the basis of a functioning democracy. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the right to express, disseminate and receive information, opinions and other communications without hindrance.

These constitutional rights and liberties are the necessary core of network rights. If left unchecked Internet developement could easily lead to the exclusion of some groups and regions. Electronic services, transactions and trade may exclude those with inadequate skills. varying levels of access to information may increase inequality between people. Constantly expanding data systems, which include more and more information about individuals, are a potential threat to confidentiality, privacy and freedom of expression.9

All these principles need to be taken into account in assessing Internet rights. They also contain some problem areas.

The Purposes of Network Rights and Duties

The aim of network society development in Finland is to improve opportunity. Society must be developed according to peoples needs. Development should be based on high-quality knowledge and the utilisation of modern information and communications technology.10

Network rights and duties can be evaluated in five arease,11 where crucial changes and developments occur.

Technological development

There has been considerable change and development in technology, the most important of which has been the increasing convergence of telecommunications and computing - the so-called information highway. 12

In Finland technical development is supported by encouraging security in network systems and data. This also strengthens people’s confidence in Internet services. Regulation is ensured in as technologically neutral a way as possible.

Security of network systems is guaranteed through the protection of services. Legislation in force since July 1999 (the Act on Protection of Privacy and Data Security in Telecommunications (Laki yksityisyyden suojasta televiestinnässä ja teletoiminnan tietoturvasta 22.4.1999/565))13 promotes the security of telecommunications services by ensuring sufficient data security and data protection. This is done particularly by regulating the confidentiality of personal messages and the coding of telecommunications and by imposing a duty on telecommunications operators to safeguard data security.14

Internet services in Finland are also to be protected by legislation on their supply forbidding illegal use of network protection mechanisms.15

The aim is to protect activities as well as to promote the creditability of security of systems.

The Act means that constitutional rights to freedom and security also apply to the Internet. Technological development has changed the operational environment. The aim is to improve services and assure freedom of activity on the Internet, particularly in electronic commerce and electronic transactions. Security is a necessary precondition for the exercise of this freedom.

Economic and occupational change

Internet developement has also affected the economy and the economics of information. The emphasis of the labour market is now on information handling. It is now possible to assess the economic significance of information to the GNP.16

The economics of the network society depend on electronic activities. Electronic commerce is key in the significance of network transactions and information. The most important type of infrastructure in this respect is a framework for electronic commerce and electronic signatures.

There is no legislation in force in Finland at the moment on electronic commerce. There are some EC Directives to be implemented, however.17

Such legislation would facilitate electronic commerce by increasing consumer confidence and changing the economic structure. What is essential is the availability and freedom of services on the Internet. In Finnish law this is based on the neutrality of equipment and on consumer protection.18

Protection of e-mail is another aspect of privacy protection. This is covered by the Act on the Protection of Privacy and Data Security in Telecommunications (Laki yksityisyyden suojasta televiestinnässä ja teletoiminnan tietoturvasta 22.4.1999/565). The aim is to increase confidentiality and to increase trust in network systems.

The purpose of protection for electronic commerce and electronic signatures is of course to increase the amount of electronic transactions, thereby widening the use of the structures and services of a network society. It also strengthens confidence and trust in network systems and data security` and increases the availability of Internet access. Privacy protection is fundamental in this. Increased confidentiality can also change the structure of the GNP.

Network effect

Technological and economic development have created information networks. Information is becoming a key strategic resource and is at the center of the growth of the tradeable information sector. Computers and communications technologies provide the infrastructure necessary for processing and distributing information. The growing "informatization” is facilitating the integration of national and regional economies.19

Ways of using and transmitting information have changed as the result of the “network effect”. The most significant change from Finland’s viewpoint is the Act on Electronic Administrative Transactions (Laki sähköisestä asioinnista hallinnossa 30.12.1999/1318) which came into force in January 2000.Two aspects of the law illustrate the effects of the information society.

The law aims to guarantee good access to services for everyone, regardless of where they live. It also gives legal protection for electronic administrative transactions by defining responsibilities and data security issues. Service providers should offer access to the Internet and are responsible for equipment and security.

The legitimacy of the electronic signature has been confirmed by the legislation. Documents can be sent and signed electronically, as in the private sector.

At the level of fundamental rights ICT can create transparency. Public administration has to be as open as possible, according to the Act on the Openness of Government Activities (Laki viranomaisten toiminnan julkisuudesta 21.5.1999/621), in force since December 1999. According to this Act administrative bodies have a duty to provide information electronically.20

Information must also be accessible to all. Methods for identification and encryption are necessary in order to guarantee privacy and transparency. Transparency also creates openness, which also means freedom of speech.

Towards the knowledge society

Two key aspects today are the efficient transfer of existing knowledge and the effective creation of new knowledge.21

These aims can also be supported by law. In Finland telecommunications are regulated by the Telecommunications Market Act (Telemarkkinalaki 30.4.1997/396), enacted in June 1997.22

The purpose of this Act is to promote competition inside the telecommunications market and increase the availability of modern telecommunications.

Telecommunications network providers have a duty to offer telecommunications services to users. In order to support competition and increase innovation an amendment has been drafted to the Telecommunications Market Act. According to the amendment network providers would have a duty to rent network systems to providers of third generation telecommunications network services, with the aim of promoting competition and accelerate the spread of third generation systems, making cheap connections available in the home and for consumers.

Such competition also promotes innovation. The throughput of network systems is growing and technologies are competing with each other. in practice this means that consumers can get cheaper services; this also promotes the constitutional equality of citizens.

Conclusion - Network Rights and Quality

Finland is a leading country in telecommunications technology, in terms of use, availability and production of technology and systems. The availability of and access to Internet services is good.

Most significantly, however, in Finland network rights and duties have been given a basis in law. Fundamental rights are at the core of responsibilities and network rights. On this basis it is clearly possible to construct an infrastructure for Internet use which guarantees the functioning of networks.

Quantitative and qualitative elements together aim to improve network rights and liberties, as well as responsibilities, in Finland. Increasing the amount of technology cannot be the only aim. The Internet has enormous potential; the quality of network rights is one way of regulating its power.

Sources of this research

von Krogh, Georg - Nonaka, Ikujiro - Nishigushi, Toshihiro. Knowledge Creation. A Source of Value, London 2000.

Lyon, David. The Information Society. Issues and Illusions. Cambridge 1988.

On the Road to the Finnish Information Society - Summary.

Quality of Life, Knowledge and Competitiviness.Premises and Objectives for Strategic Developement of the Finnish Information Society. Sitra 211, Helsinki 1998.

Webster, Frank. Theories of the Information Society. London 1997.

Existing online information sources

Data Security and Law. Perspectives on the Legal Regulation of Data Security Executive. Summary in English of the Research Report: Group of experts on the regulation of data security. Ahti Saarenpää (ed.) - Tuomas Pöysti (ed.) -Mikko Sarja - Viveca Still - Ruxandra Balboa-Alcoreza. Summaries written by Mikko Sarja and Viveca Still. Edited by Tuomas Pöysti & Ruxandra Balboa-Alcoreza.

Finland as an Information Society. The Report of an Information Society. Advisory Board to the Government.

Law, Technology and Data Technology. Saarenpää, Ahti.

Quality of Life, Knowledge and Competitiviness. Premises and Objectives for Strategic Developement of the Finnish Information Society. Sitra 211, Helsinki 1998.

Telecommunications Privacy Act, with links by Jari Råman.

1. On today's situation in Finland, see Almost every Finn has access to broadband networks, Ministry of Transport and Communications 2000

2. See on this decision-in-principle

3. See On the Road to the Finnish Information Society - Summary

4. See On the Road to the Finnish Information Society - Summary and statistics also


Statistics, ssee (Internetiin liitettyjen tietokoneiden määrä (host) 1000 asukasta kohti).

6. On these statistics, see

7. On rights and liberties, see

8. the full text of the Constitution, see The other fundamental rights referred here can be found at Chapter 2 of the Constitution.

9. See Quality of life, knowledge and competiveness: promises and objectives for strategic developement of the Finnish information society, Sitra 211, Helsinki, http://www.sitra/tietoyhteiskunta/english/st51/eng2062b.htm

10. See Quality of life, knowledge and competiveness: promises and objectives for strategic developement of the Finnish information society, Sitra 211, Helsinki, http://www.sitra/tietoyhteiskunta/english/st51/eng2062b.htm

11. On these dimensions and classifications, see Webster 1997, p. 6 - 7.

12. On this developement, see also Lyon 1988, p. 42 - 44 or Webster 1997, p. 7 - 10.

13. This Act implements several EC Directives in Finnish legislation: Data security on Telecommunicatons 1997/66/EC, Protection of Consumers in Respect of Distance Contracts 1997/7/EC, Interconnection in Telecommunications with Regard to Ensuring Universal Service1997/33/EC and Application of Open Network Provision (ONP) 1998/10/EC. Later Directives concerning the same issue are the Directives on Electronic Signatures 1999/93/EC and on Electronic Commerce 2000/31/EC. The whole text of this Act

14. The Directive on Data Security 1995/46/EC was earlier implemented in Finnish legislation by the Personal Data Act, which entered into force in June 1999 (Henkilötietolaki 22.4.1999/523), this act is also available in English, see

15. This legislation is not in force yet, but when enacted it implements Directive 98/84/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Legal Protection of Services Based on, or Consisting of, Conditional Access.

16. See more Lyon 1988, p. 44 - 45 and Webster 1997, p. 10 - 13.

17. The most significant ones are Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (called also the Directive on electronic commerce), the whole text of the Directive, see and Directive 1999/93/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on a Community framework for electronic signature, the whole text, see . Both of these Directives have to be brought into force within 1 - 2 years.

18. On electronic signature there is legislative in force in Finland already, see later in the section on the network effect.

19. For more of this, see Webster 1997, p. 18 - 20.

20. This Act in English, see

21. For more on knowledge creation, see Krogh, Nonaka, Nishiguchi 2000, p. 13 - 16.

22. The whole text of this act, see

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