Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Public or private
A case that escaped me when it was most active, brought to my attention by a colleague: A specialist in electronic warfare was accused of public anti-muslim opinions. He had published these on the internet. In Norway it is not permitted to harass people for religion or race, or to make public statements that can be deemed to be racist. In this case, the statements were considered racist according to the Norwegian criminal law. Synnevåg (the expert) had been encouraging others to harass and persecute muslims through an open news group.

There was no case against him, but he left his job with the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment. Afterwards he sued the Norwegian Ethical and Humanist Union, Human-etisk forbund (HEF), for making the case against him that caused him to leave his job. His claim was that they had breached his privacy by gathering information on his opinions from newsgroups.

The judgement in this case was that HEF had done nothing illegal when they used the information from the newsgroup to make public the opinions of a researcher in a prominent public position. Newsgroups were considered public spaces, and what he had published in the discussion was considered to be in the public domain, not part of a private conversation.

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