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Sonera security staff held on snooping charges

Riffling through staff's home phone records

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Two senior security staff at Finnish telco Sonera have been remanded in custody, charged with breaching customer privacy by allegedly riffling through private telephone records in an attempt to identify an internal mole.

Helsingin Sanomat, Finland's biggest daily newspaper, reports today that the Helsinki District Court ordered the pair to be held in custody amid fears that they would interfere with an investigation by Finland's National Bureau of Investigation into suspected violations of communications privacy by Sonera.

The paper reports that the two men remanded in custody are Juha E. Miettinen, who heads Sonera's Eurasia project, and another unnamed man who is "a top figure in Sonera's security operations". In late 2000 and early 2001, the pair allegedly "secretly investigated the private telephone records of dozens of company employees and outsiders in an effort to find the source of leaks of confidential corporate information to the media", the paper reports. This leaked information, which found its way into Helsingin Sanomat and other Finnish papers, concerning conflicts within the Sonera administration.

The NBI investigation was launched recently at Sonera's own request, after an earlier internal investigation which concluding telephone records had been accessed - but nothing illegal had taken place - proved unconvincing.

Telephone companies in Finland are legally obliged to guarantee the privacy of telecommunications, so the case is being viewed as a serious matter.

Under Finnish law, access to telephone records is restricted to police or the authorities and normally requires court authorisation. The target of any such investigation must normally be told phone records were scrutinised after an investigation is concluded. ®

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