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Thursday's papers: GDPR introduced, military service reform proposed, health care plans "rushed"

Papers this Thursday review the EU's personal data protection regulation, GDPR as well as a new kind of civilian service and the breakneck "sote" schedule.

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Your data will be safer starting tomorrow, the government promises. Image: AOP

Friday is the day that a much-discussed EU data privacy rule kicks in, aiming to vouchsafe individual control over personal information for residents of the 28-member bloc.

The name of the change is GDPR (general data protection regulation), and daily Helsingin Sanomat pegs it as a crucial shift in how people can control the confidentiality of their personal data.

"This is an umbrella law that defines how privacy actually works in our contemporary world," HS quotes Elias Aarnio, IT chief for the digital rights NGO, Electronic Frontier Finland (Effi).

In principle, the reform is meant to better allow citizens to exercise the right to decide what information about them is stored and how it is used. This is a basic civil right, but the law change will now also introduce the opportunity to not only access personal data but to easily transfer that information to a preferred, competing storage service. Online agreements and terms of service are also meant to become clearer and more transparent with the new regulation.

But even after the EU's regulation goes into effect, unless people specifically request that they stop, Finnish agencies will likely continue to sell their data, according to news outlet Lännen Media.

Even so, Data Protection Ombudsman Reijo Aarnio says in HS that oversight of data security will become much easier after Friday. Aarnio's office is the one that will step in if a company or service does not promptly reply to a request for personal info.

"When the rules are the same for everyone, competition in the digital market will increase," Aarnio says. "Freer transfer of data will also have this effect."

The law has been criticised for being old-fashioned in the fast-paced digital world, but Aarnio says the main thing is that EU countries will now finally play by the same data privacy rules.

Rehn guns for service change

A different proposal to change Finnish society in a somewhat more dramatic way is investigated in today's Turun Sanomat newspaper. If ex-Defence Minister Elisabeth Rehn has her way, the Finnish military and civilian service system will be in for a massive overhaul.

Currently Finland is one of the only countries in Europe that still upholds military conscription for all male citizens aged 18-30. It's either 6-12 months in the army, a civilian service position or jail for Finnish men. This is what Rehn says must change: all Finns, women included, must be involved in her vision for a societal system that she says will drive the country's defense.

Rehn's working group proposes the virtual dismantling of the current civilian service option, which allows able males to choose a group or association of their own choosing in which to work for 347 days, with housing and meals covered. Such work is often in the service, maintenance, culture or care industry.

Rehn's model would require all adult citizens to either grab a gun and learn to use it, or be trained in a critical emergency skill: fire and rescue training, environmental protection protocols, anti-terrorism methods and cyber security know-how would be the only options.

A positive thing is that those who refuse any kind of service would no longer be thrown in jail or have an ankle monitor installed, as currently happens. Organisations such as Amnesty International and the EU have warned Finland to cease such discriminatory practices.

The new system would allow people to refuse all service by waiving the right to a proposed tax break that all other citizens would receive.

Defense Minister Jussi Niinistö expresses his fears over the proposal in TS.

"Even the smallest voluntary element in military service would open a Pandora's box. That's why Sweden is having trouble now with recruiting enough personnel for strategic wartime defense," Niinistö intones.

Experts: Sote reform schedule "unreasonable"

Lastly in news of coming changes that are set to sweep the nation, tabloid Ilta-Sanomat writes that professors involved in assessing the coming "sote" health care and social service reform are clamouring against the vast model's breakneck schedule.

Government has consulted hundreds of experts over the course of the reform's preparation, and now three professors in particular are telling IS that trying to muscle in the changes pronto is a bad idea.

"Everybody involved is at the end of their tether, and sometimes there's just not enough energy or time to do things right," Helsinki University constitutional law professor Tuomas Ojanen says ruefully in IS. "We'd love the opportunity to actually acquaint ourselves properly with massive government proposals such as this, and that's not what we're being offered."

Ojanen says he and his colleagues firmly doubt that any single person has actually read, studied and understood the whole health care package. The timetable is simply unreasonable, they say.

For Turku University law professor Juha Lavapuro the signs are clear – the government has created its own problem.

"Something else is now driving this proposal through, and it isn't the desire to do it right," Lavapuro says.

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