In spite of prompt denials, a report in a Finnish newspaper that mobile phone giant Nokia had threatened to leave its native country if privacy laws were not relaxed has created waves.
Nokia spokeswoman Arja Suominen was quick to reject the accusation saying, "Nokia has in no way threatened to move," and claiming that 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.
Parliament is to vote in a fortnight on a new law, dubbed the called 'Lex Nokia', which would allow companies to pry into emails sent by its employees, at present illegal in Finland. The new measures are expected to be passed.
The daily quoted an unnamed civil servant as telling the paper, "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.
According to the report, 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 pouring over its staff email correspondence to try to find proof of the corporate espionage. In doing so, Nokia was breaking the current law that aims to protect workers' right to confidential communication, but charges against the company were never filed due to lack of evidence.
Lex Nokia would 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 would be a blow to employee privacy rights.
Whereas legal scholars have said the bill clashes with the constitution, Parliament's transport and communications committee backed it last December by stressing that the viewing of metadata would be the last resort when establishing the source of a leak.