The High Administrative Court (Korkein Hallintooikeus) in Finland issued a clear statement on September 9 stating that what Veropörssi is doing is illegal. You can see the text of the statement here in Finnish. The actual court decision is here. In it they emphasize protection of privacy.
In October, after that statement was issued, I sent a web feedback to the Tax Authority (Verohallinto) requesting that they respect my privacy in accordance with the court’s decision, KHO:2009:82, and got a reply, which was a copy-paste of the law regarding the publicity of tax records. And guess what else? Veropörssi is back on the store shelves with the 2010 edition. It seems that the Finnish Tax Authority regards their own Administrative High Court as a complete joke. Also Iltalehti, Iltasanomat, YLE, etc. all have their own lists or databases so the Tax Authority has been selling tax records to the press just as before, even if a court decision came out over a month prior emphasizing protection of privacy.
In October, I also sent an e-mail to the Finnish Data Protection Ombudsman. In it I said that the court decision sounds great and they seem to agree with your stance, and that I would hate to have my taxation personal data end up in publications or the internet once again. The data protection board are the ones that ultimately make the decision, though, like they did before. When the Data Protection Ombudsman try to bring a little order to this tax record publication circus previously, the Data Protection Board completely undermined his efforts by defending freedom of speech/press. Well who wants to try to regulate the quality of journalism? What kind of publishing of tax records is OK and what isn’t? Veropörssi is a lot closer to the traditional definition of journalism than, for example, YLE’s Verokone. Trying to define what is journalism and what isn’t won’t get far. That can eventually end up in the European Court of Human Rights and lose. The simplest approach would be to treat all personal data like personal data, and regard the universal human rights more highly than archaic Swedish governing principles used so the state, church and neighbours could police how much each person was paying. That has no place in modern society, unless the Tax Authority is totally incompetent, of course. In that case we should outsource them anyway. And if the court says that protection of privacy is important, does that mean now, later, 6 months from now, or whenever it is convenient?
If government transparency was working the way it should work, I could easily search and find the yearly budget of the Data Protection Board office, so that people would know how much tax they are paying for people who don’t seem to be willing or interested in really protecting their personal data, but instead defend people selling and publishing it with “freedom of speech/press” or bicker about what is journalism and what is not. It’s probably a lot of money, money Finland probably doesn’t have to waste. And more is about to be wasted on upcoming court cases, now that noone seems to have paid any attention to the High Administrative Court’s verdict.
I was told by an involved government official that I should file charges with the police. I am not sure who is guilty and who to file the charges against. When the government bodies treat a decision from their own High Administrative Court as a joke, one is not really sure where to turn anymore. Maybe all national remedies have been exhausted and the only place left is the European Court of Human Rights. They might find a case like this interesting for a change. The cases coming out of Finland in the ECHR have mainly dealt with the long length of court proceedings. A clear, serious Human Rights offense case they might find rather engaging. (the right to protection of one’s private and family life)
PS, according to a priest friend of mine, you can calculate if people belong or don’t belong to one of the official churches (Lutheran or Orthodox) by calculating their tax percentage vs. income. I haven’t verified that myself. At least you can probably quite clearly see, however, people who have left the official churches during sequential tax periods. How about a “Luopiopörssi”? Heh, heh imagine that. If that’s true, I don’t think privacy protection (or lack thereof) gets much worse than this.