On 6 October the Finnish Government issued a bill to Parliament on amending the Act on the Protection of Privacy in Electronic Communications, which would allow the authorities to issue emergency alerts to the public by text message. An alert message could be sent to mobile phones located in a specific region in cases of poisonous fallout or a natural disaster, for example. So far such alerts have been broadcast via radio and television. The Act is meant to enter into force on 1 April 2006.
The main contents of the bill are the following:
· Available measures for ensuring that the method is used appropriately are presented.
· An alert message could be sent by an order of the rescue, police or frontier authorities, the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, or the Meteorological Institute.
· A decision on other targeted communication from the authorities would be on the responsibility of the competent ministry. The authority making the decision would reimburse the operators for the incurred expenses.
· Telecom operators would be obliged to transmit an alert without delay. Specifics for the time delay allowed, taking into consideration the technological and operational limits, would be determined by the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority.
In terms of technology, SMS emergency communication is possible already today but it is fairly slow, because there is no regional automatic delivery system for mass text messaging. The questions related to the possible system reform will be solved by the authorities and telecom operators later.
So far the Finnish authorities have used the SMS messaging once, which was after the tsunami disaster last Christmas when messages were sent to Finnish mobile phone subscriptions in Thailand, India and Sri Lanka.
For further information please contact:
Mr Juhapekka Ristola, acting Director of Unit for E-commerce and Data Security,
tel. +358 9 160 28348, +358 400 788 530