HELSINKI (AFP) — Mobile phone giant Nokia threatened to leave its native Finland if a change to laws blocking companies from monitoring employee emails was not introduced, a respected Finnish newspaper said Sunday.
Nokia spokeswoman Arja Suominen subsequently rejected the accusation, telling the STT news agency that "Nokia has in no way threatened to move," claiming the "Helsingin Sanomat article is quite polemic. It contains many mistakes and misunderstandings."
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen also denied that politicians had been pressured by the company to change the law.
"I have not heard about such an ultimatum. I have discussed (the law) with many companies including Nokia, and I have never heard that they have made such a threat," he told national broadcaster Yle.
The daily quoted an unnamed civil servant as telling the paper that "Nokia lobbied very hard for the proposed law to be unanimously approved... (The message) was very clear: if the law was not approved, Nokia would leave Finland."
The company generates around 1.3 billion euros (1.7 billion dollars) worth of tax revenues and employs 16,000 people in Finland, Helsingin Sanomat said.
The Nordic country is currently considering loosening a law on the surveillance of electronic information that today bans companies from reading their employees' emails.
According to Helsingin Sanomat, Nokia began lobbying politicians for a new electronic information surveillance law after it became suspicious that that one of its employees had emailed classified information on new network equipment to its Chinese competitor Huawei.
The company filed a police complaint and began poring over its staff email correspondence to try to find proof of the corporate espionage.
In doing so, Nokia was breaking the current law which aims to protect workers' right to confidential communication, but charges against the company were never filed due to lack of evidence.
The new data retention law proposal, called Lex Nokia, would meanwhile allow employers to monitor their workers' electronic correspondence for information including the sender and recipient of the email, the time it was sent and the size of attachments.
Law experts in Finland have insisted that the new law, expected to be voted through parliament later this month, would be a blow to employee privacy rights.
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