Danish tax authorities want to mirror hard disks of private companies

By EDRi · October 20, 2010

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Dänische Steuerbehörde will Festplatten privater Unternehmen spiegeln | http://www.unwatched.org/node/2277]

A new proposed law would allow the Danish tax authorities to simply mirror
entire hard disks of companies without a court order and before they have a
reason to suspect the company has engaged in unlawful activities.

The proposal adds the following two paragraphs to the law of tax auditing
(unofficial translation):

“Paragraph. 6. Customs and tax administration can make identical
electronic copies (mirrors) of the content of electronic media that
falls under the control of the customs and tax administrations, and can
take the copied material away for subsequent review. The copied material
must be deleted, if the customs and tax administration determines
that the material does not contain information that is relevant for the
control exercised by the customs and tax administration. However, if the
customs and tax agency decides to proceed with the case, the copied
material must be deleted only after the case is finally decided.

Paragraph. 7. The minister of taxation determines, after submission to
the National Board of Taxation, further rules regarding the customs and
tax administration’s right to make identical electronic copies (mirrors)
of the data content of electronic media, that are part of an inspection,
including rules on the retention and deletion of the copied material. ”

In the comments to the proposal, the issue of proportionality in relation
to the Human Rights Convention article 8.2 is discussed. It was concluded
that since the tax authorities will only use mirroring in cases where
they would otherwise not get the necessary information, and only after
they have determined in each case that less drastic measures would not
be sufficient, then the impact on the individuals subject to the control
is limited.

The tax authorities argue the law will make their job easier, they
promise not to abuse their new powers, and are willing to make
adjustments if the consultation should point out minor problems.

The proposal from the liberal/conservative government is supported by
the largest opposition party, the Social Democrats, as Nick Hækkerup said to
Berlingske newspaper. He wants to ensure that the mirrors are only used
for taxation, with the exception that if the tax authorities happen to
discover child abuse images, it should be reported to the police.

Conversely, the proposal has met hard criticism from the Danish Data
Protection Agency, major medias, think tank CEPOS, blogs, etc.

Draft law (only in Danish, 1.09.2010)

Civil liberty under pressure (only in Danish, 4.10.2010)

Tax authorities requires free access to the hard disk (only in Danish,

Politicians welcomed the mirroring (only in Danish, 4.10.2010)

(Contribution by Niels Elgaard Larsen, EDRI-member IT-POL Denmark)