Regulating Privacy: Vocabularies of Motive in Legislating Right of Access to Criminal Records in Sweden

Chapter

Abstract

Ever since it was set up in 1901, the data stored at the Swedish Criminal Records Registry has been viewed as potentially harmful to individuals’ integrity if ending up in wrong hands. For long, the possibility that other actors such as employers might be able to take advantage of individuals’ right to access and review their criminal history information served as a justification for limiting access to criminal records. When, upon recommendation of the Council of Europe, full subject access requests became possible in Sweden in 1987, this perception of the risk of harm to individuals was devalued and the risk element itself reconceived. Not being able to ascertain what was on one’s criminal record was now thought of as creating the potential of greater harm to individuals, compared to the possibility of employers’ taking advantage of the data subjects’ right of access to their personal information. In the last decade, however, the number of individuals applying for a disclosure of their criminal records upon the urging of potential or current employers has drastically increased, reviving the original problem. This chapter analyses the vocabularies of motive legislators have resorted to at different stages of this evolution, first when arguing for restrictions on individuals’ right to access information on their criminal record, and later when attempting to justify full access. The article also throws light on how key concepts such as “legitimate use” and ”misuse” of this information were constructed in the process, and how notions like “risk of harm” to individuals and “just consequences” changed over time.

Keywords

Criminal Justice System Criminal Record National Police Crime Policy Expert Commission 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

References

  1. Andersson, R.. Kriminalpolitikens väsen [The Nature of Swedish Crime Policy]. Stockholm: Stockholm University, Department of Criminology, 2002.Google Scholar
  2. Andersson, Robert, and Roddy Nilsson. Svensk kriminalpolitik [Criminal Policy in Sweden]. Malmö: Liber, 2009.Google Scholar
  3. Bennett, C.J. The Privacy Advocates. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2008.Google Scholar
  4. Burke, Kenneth. Permanence and Change. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984 [1935].Google Scholar
  5. Bygrave, L.A. “The Place of Privacy in Data Protection.” University of New South Wales Law Journal 24, no.1 (2001): 277–283.Google Scholar
  6. Commission Report. Förslag till förordning angående straffregister [Proposal for an Ordinance Concerning the Criminal Register]. Stockholm: Kungliga Boktryckeriet and P. A. Norstedt & söner, 1892.Google Scholar
  7. Connerly, M.L., R. D. Arvey, and C. J. Bernardy. “Criminal Background Checks for Prospective and Current Employees: Current Practices among Municipal Agencies.” Public Personnel Management 30, no. 2 (2001): 173–183.Google Scholar
  8. De Hert, P., and S. Gutwirth. “Privacy, Data Protection Law and Law Enforcement: Opacity of the Individual and Transparency of Power.” In Privacy and the Criminal Law, edited by E. Claes, A. Duff, and S. Gutwirth, 61–104. Antwerpen and Oxford: Intersentia, 2006.Google Scholar
  9. Demker, M., and G. Duus-Otterström. “Realigning Criminal Policy: Offender and Victim in the Swedish Party System over Time.” International Review of Sociology 19, no. 2 (2009): 273–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Department of Justice. “Promemoria 5 of February.” Record Number Dnr 301–380. 1980.Google Scholar
  11. Esping-Andersen, Gøsta. The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1990.Google Scholar
  12. Flaherty, D.H. Protecting Privacy in Surveillance Societies. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989.Google Scholar
  13. Garland, D. The Culture of Control. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2001.Google Scholar
  14. Grier, A., and T. Thomas. “The Employment of Ex-Offenders and the UK’s New Criminal Record Bureau.” European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research 9, no. 4 (2001): 459–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Harris, Patricia M., and K.S. Keller. “Ex-Offenders Need Not Apply: The Criminal Background Check in Hiring Decisions.” Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 21, no. 1 (2005): 6–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Holzer, H.J., Raphael, S., and M.A. Stoll. “Will Employers Hire Former Offenders?: Employer Preferences, Background Checks, and Their Determinants.” In Imprisoning America: Employer Preferences, Background Checks, and Their Determinants, edited by M. Pattillo, D. F. Weiman, and B. Western, 205–43. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2004.Google Scholar
  17. Holzer, H.J., Raphael, S., and M.A. Stoll. “The Effect of an Applicant’s Criminal History on Employer Hiring Decisions and Screening Practises: Evidence from Los Angeles.” In Barriers to Reentry? The Labor Market for Released Prisoners in Post-Industrial America, edited by S. Bushway, M. A. Stoll, and D. F. Weiman, 117–50. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation, 2007.Google Scholar
  18. Häthén, C. Stat och straff. Rättshistoriska perspektiv [The State and Punishment: Legal-Historical Perspectives]. Lund: Studentlitteratur, 2004.Google Scholar
  19. Häthén, C. Straffrättsvetenskap och kriminalpolitik. De europeiska straffteorierna och deras betydelse för svensk strafflagstiftning 19061931 [Criminal Jurisprudence and Criminal Policy: European Theories of Punishment and Their Significance for Swedish Criminal Legislation, 1906–1931). Lund: Lund University Press, 1990.Google Scholar
  20. Ilshammar, L. Offentlighetens nya rum – Teknik och politik [The New Public Sphere: Technology and Politcs in Sweden, 1969–1999]. Örebro: Universitetsbiblioteket, 2002.Google Scholar
  21. Lahti, R. “Towards a Rational and Humane Criminal Policy: Trends in Scandinavian Penal Thinking.” Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention 1, no. 2 (2000): 141–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lam, A., and B.H. Kleiner. “Criminal Background Checks of Prospective Employees: Why and How Should It Be Done?” Managerial Law 43, no. 1/2 (2001): 132–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lam, H., and M. Harcourt. “The Use of Criminal Record in Employment Decisions: The Rights of Ex-Offenders, Employers and the Public.” Journal of Business Ethics 47, no. 3 (2003): 237–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Larsson, B. “Auditor Regulation and Economic Crime Policy in Sweden, 1965–2000.” Accounting, Organizations and Society 30, no. 2 (2005): 127–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lexbro, L. “Konflikt eller konsensus? Kriminalpolitiken och riksdagen 1946–1965” [Conflict or Consensus? Criminal Policy and the Swedish Parliament, 1946–1965]. Nordisk Tidskrift for Kriminalvedenskab 87, no. 1 (2000): 48–58.Google Scholar
  26. Lext, G. Studier i svensk kyrkobokföring 16001946 [Studies on the Keeping of Parish Registers in Sweden, 1600–1946]. Gothenburg: Department of Economic History, School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg, 1984.Google Scholar
  27. Louks, N., O. Lyner, and T. Sullivan. “The Employment of People with Criminal Records in the European Union.” European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research 6, no. 2 (1998): 195–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Magnusson Sjöberg, C. “Constitutional Rights and New Technologies in Sweden.” In Constitutional Rights and New Technologies: A Comparative Study, edited by Ronald; Leenes, B.-J. Koops, P. D. Hert, and S. W. Brenner, 199–224. The Hague: T.M.C. Asser Press, 2008.Google Scholar
  29. Markgren, S. Datainspektionen och skyddet av den personliga identiteten [The Data Inspection Board and the Protection of Personal Privacy]. Lund: Studentlitteratur, 1984.Google Scholar
  30. Mills, C.W. “Situated Actions and Vocabularies of Motive.” American Sociological Review 5, no. 6 (1940): 904–913.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ministry Publication Series. “Lag om brottsregister m.m.” [Criminal Records Act, etc.]. Stockholm: Department of Justice, Ds Ju 1985: 8.Google Scholar
  32. Ministry Publications Series. “De registrerades rätt till insyn i kriminal- och polisregistren” [The Data Subject’s Right of Access to Her/His Data Contained in Criminal and Police Records]. Stockholm: Department of Justice, Ds Ju 1981: 6.Google Scholar
  33. Naylor, B., M. Paterson, and M. Pittard. “In the Shadow of a Criminal Record: Proposing a Just Model of Criminal Record Employment Checks.” Melbourne University Law Review 32, no. 1 (2008): 171–198.Google Scholar
  34. Pratt, J. “Scandinavian Exceptionalism in an Era of Penal Excess: Part I: The Nature and Roots of Scandinavian Exceptionalism.” British Journal of Criminology 48, no. 2 (2008): 119–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pratt, J. “Scandinavian Exceptionalism in an Era of Penal Excess: Part II: Does Scandinavian Exceptionalism Have a Future?” British Journal of Criminology 48, no. 3 (2008): 275–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pratt, J., and A. Eriksson. “Den skandinaviska exceptionalismen i kriminalpolitiken” [Scandinavian Exceptionalism in Criminal Policy]. Nordisk Tidsskrift for Kriminalvidenskab 96, no. 2 (2009): 135–151.Google Scholar
  37. Preliminary Report of the Parliament Proceedings. “Onsdagen den 19 maj, kl 09.00–16.37” [Wednesday, May 19, at 09:00–16:37 hrs.], 2009/10:121.Google Scholar
  38. Proposal 1899 No. 18. “Kongl. Maj:ts nådiga proposition till riksdagen med förslag till lag om straffregister; given Stockholms slott den 22 december 1899” [Gracious Proposal by His Royal Majesty for an Act on Criminal Registry, Submitted to the Parliament of Sweden on December 22, 1899].Google Scholar
  39. Proposal 1963:39. “Kungl. Maj:ts proposition till riksdagen med förslag till lag om allmänt kriminalregister m.m.” [Proposal by His Royal Majesty for an Act on General Criminal Registry, etc., Submitted to the Parliament of Sweden].Google Scholar
  40. Proposal 1979/1980:2. “Förslag till ny sekretesslag” [Proposal for a New Secrecy Act].Google Scholar
  41. Proposal 1987/1988:122. “Förslag till lag om ändring i lagen (1963:197) om allmänt kriminalregister” [Proposal for an Act to Amend the Act 1963:197 on General Criminal Registry].Google Scholar
  42. Proposal 1997/1998:97. “Polisens register” [Police Databanks].Google Scholar
  43. Proposal 2009/2010:191. “Gallring ur belastningsregistret av uppgifter om unga lagöverträdare” [Expungement of Information on Juvenile Offenders from the Criminal Records Register].Google Scholar
  44. Richardson, L. “Narrative and Sociology.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 1 (1990): 116–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Swedish Government Offical Reports. Enhetligt frihetsstraff. [Uniform Imprisonment]. Stockholm: Department of Justice, SOU 1953: 17.Google Scholar
  46. Swedish Government Offical Reports. Den allmänna brottsregistreringen [The General Criminal Registry]. Stockholm: Department of Justice, SOU 1961: 11.Google Scholar
  47. Swedish Government Offical Reports. Offentlighet och sekretess. [Public Access and Secrecy]. Stockholm: Department of Justice, SOU 1966: 60.Google Scholar
  48. Swedish Government Offical Reports. Data och integritet [Computers and Privacy]. Stockholm: Department of Justice, SOU 1972: 47.Google Scholar
  49. Swedish Government Offical Reports. Polisens register. Slutbetänkande. [The Police Registers: Final Report]. Stockholm: Fritze, SOU 1997: 65.Google Scholar
  50. Swedish Government Offical Reports. Integritetsskydd i arbetslivet [Personal Privacy in the Working Life]. Stockholm: Fritzes, SOU 2009: 44.Google Scholar
  51. Söderlind, Å. Personlig integritet som informationspolitik. [Privacy as information policy – debate and discussion concerning the first Swedish data protection law, Datalag (1973:289)] Borås and Göteborg: Valfrid, 2009.Google Scholar
  52. Terms of Reference. Personlig integritet i arbetslivet [Personal Privacy in Working Life]. Dir. 2006: 55.Google Scholar
  53. Tham, H. “From Treatment to Just Deserts in a Changing Welfare State.” In Beware of Punishment: On the Utility and Futility of Criminal Law, edited by A. Snare. Oslo: Pax Forlag, 89–122. 1995.Google Scholar
  54. The National Police Board. “Framställning om en översyn av den enskildes rätt att ta del av uppgifter om sig själv i belastningsregistret” [missive to the Government on reforming the way individuals’ access to their criminal registry information is handled]. The National Police Board, Legal Secretariat, Record Number RÄS 442-3960/04, 2004.Google Scholar
  55. Thomas, T. Criminal Records: A Database for the Criminal Justice System and Beyond. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.Google Scholar
  56. Wang, J.-M., and B.H. Kleiner. “Effective Employment Screening Practices.” Management Research News 23, no. 5/6 (2000): 73–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden

Personalised recommendations