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Police officers' Putin information sent to Oulu teacher's inbox by mistake

Police are to investigate themselves after officers accidentally sent a schoolteacher in Oulu confidential email message threads concerning Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Finland in late July. The messages included updates on the visit's schedule and security protocol talk, but also some less official private comments.

Opettaja Minna Timonen seisoo seinän edessä.
Teacher Minna Timonen from Oulu says she will discuss the email snafu with her students. Image: Kati Siponmaa / Yle

Police have announced they will investigate a breach in communications security after internal police messages about a recent visit by Vladimir Putin to Finland were sent to the private email address of a schoolteacher in Oulu by mistake.

Minna Timonen, who teaches Finnish literature, received a number of brief back-and-forth messages on July 27 concerning Putin's arrival schedule and the visit's overall security. Some of the messages were also of a far more informal nature, with officers critically commenting on their colleagues' clothes and making other unrelated observations.

"At first I was just confused and wondered if this was some kind of spam," Timonen says.

Hotmail addresses

The messages were intended for a police inspector name Minna Immonen – not Timonen. Both women have Hotmail addresses.

The next day she wrote to the officers who had sent her the messages in error and asked for an explanation. Constable Satu Oinonen said that she knew Immonen was on holiday, so did not answer the message.  After receiving no reply, Timonen broke the news herself to tabloid Iltalehti.

As a teacher, Timonen says she will be sure to discuss the unwitting cyber security leak with her students.

"That way they can see how the process works and that it's worth seeing things through when important concerns are raised," she said.

Police investigation pending

Chief of Eastern Finland Police Taisto Huokko responded to the very public outing of the officers' blunder by saying that the messages did not include any information that would have put either the Finnish or Russian president at risk, and that to err is human, even for police.

"It's good that we have this opportunity to look into this mishap properly," Huokko says. "Our communications guidelines are already very good, with sophisticated encryption and a high level of training."

Huokko says that nothing criminal occurred as a result of the police officers' mistake.

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