The only way of being anonymous in Sweden is illegal?

I remember a few years ago there was a big leak of all Turkeys citizen database containing basically all of their citizens. It created a lot of fuzz on sites like HackerNews and Reddit (among others) that it was outrageous and some argued that that sort of database shouldn’t exist at all.

Little do they know that Turkey is nothing compared to what’s going on in my country of birth, Sweden. Sweden has that database but thanks to some for-profit companies we have it completely open and searchable on a lot of sites and the best part is that you can’t have the data removed. Sites like Mr.koll, Ratsit, Hitta and Eniro all gather and publish all kinds of information they can find of individuals. Your social security number, your phone number(s), your latest addresses including a nice Google Maps image on some showing either the street view or satellite view. The best part for these companies is, the state is on their side and if you try to hide from it, you are the criminal.

The reason these companies can publish and profit on your personal information is due to Sweden’s constitution based laws on free speech (Yttrandefrihetsgrundlagen) and free press (Tryckfrihetsförordningen). Two laws that are incredibly good and powerful in most instances. Even if newer laws like GDPR has changed some things that a person can require of privately owned companies, the laws do not apply if they contravenes the constitution which in this case they apparently do.

This means that if you as a private individual writes and request removal of the data according to the GDPR (or the swedish implementation of it, Dataskyddsförordningen) it will promptly be ignored since these companies all “act in the interest of society” (Utgivningsbevis) basically.

Let’s say you still dislike that your data is being openly shared to anyone that wants to access it, what can you do? The short answer is that the only legal way is to apply for protected identity. Then all your data will be removed from the services, you will get all kind of special treatments (like getting all your mail rerouted through a government authority) from companies and government authorities. The issue with this is that you won’t get it, and it is really not something you want to get, since it requires your life to be threatened and it’s the swedish police force that is the final judge if you have a threat serious enough to warrant it.

The only real other way to stay anonymous is to be a criminal, in other words state that your living address is something that it is not. You see, in Sweden all citizens are required to have a physical street address connected to your social security number. By law, you are required to actually reside on this street address. The bad news is that this is illegal and could lead to a prison sentence up to six months. The good news is that basically no one really cares or will investigate you. People can probably find your real address though if it’s a property that you own (due to other similar searchable databases) but if you rent in theory this would be the most anonymous option.

As a person who was born in Sweden and cares about integrity, I think this system is horrible and is in a dire need of a big change. You can basically order stuff online and take over the identity of people from the information given for free. This system was built and created for a different time where violent criminality was pretty much absent in Sweden and before internet and identity theft was a widespread thing.

Anyway, I hope you learned something and found my post interesting. Please do not hesitate to share it if you want to!

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