Digitisation of letter post is legally problematic
Itella's trial was nevertheless not unlawful
In the assessment of Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja, opening and digitising letters relating to health and social welfare, banks and political parties are not unproblematic. He has asked the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority to adopt a position on the matter if the intention is to continue with a digitisation trial launched by Itella Oyj (formerly Finland Post).
Porvoo trial based on agreement
On the basis of an agreement with the mail recipient, Itella delivered ordinary 1st- and 2nd-class letters to its subsidiary Itella Information Oy. The subsidiary opened and digitised the letters, if it was possible. Digitisation was done on premises to which only designated employees who had signed a confidentiality agreement had access. After digitisation, the letters were resealed and sent again to the recipient.
Digitisation trial meant interfering with secrecy of the mail
The Deputy-Ombudsman found that the trial was not downright unlawful. It was based on regulation of a general nature and also on consent given to a party other than the postal company. However, it can be asked whether the special arrangement was used only as a means of circumventing the absolute ban on opening letters that applies to a postal company.
Consent to a trial must be genuine
Thus, for example, letters to and from social welfare and health care bodies or political organisations that contained sensitive information may have been among those that were opened and digitised.
Also benefits from trial
Mail recipients also derived benefits from the trial. By combining conventional and electronic mail distribution, it is possible to promote genuine equality between mail recipients. For example, when an area is one where the Postal Services Act allows delivery to be made at less frequent intervals, the standard of service improves.
Additional info will be provided by Senior Legal Adviser Mikko Sarja, tel. +358(0)9 4321.