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Denmark: Draft Laws on Digital Communication with the Public Sector

(May 23, 2012) It was reported on May 1, 2012, that two legislative proposals currently before the Danish Parliament, L 160 and L 159, will make the use of digital communication with the public sector, for which specific computer systems must be used, mandatory for Danish citizens. (New Danish Law Will Make Digital Communication with the Public Sector Mandatory, IT-POLITISK (May 1, 2012).)

L 160

Proposal L 160 is on the “public sector document box,” the use of which would replace almost all paper letter communication conveyed from the public sector to citizens. The law requires that as of November 2014, all Danish citizens 15 years of age and above use the new service; before that date, its use is be voluntary. (Id.; L 160 Forslag til lov om Offentlig Digital Post, Folketinget [Danish parliament] website (Apr. 13, 2012).)

A digital letter delivered to the document box from a government organ to a citizen would have the same legal effect as the mailing of a regular paper letter, whether or not the citizen has actually registered with the document box service. In comments to the proposal, the Finance Minister justified this by drawing an analogy to physical mailboxes, which people (i.e., residential building owners) must set up in order to receive mail through the postal service. Unlike setting up a physical mailbox, however, using a document box requires that the citizen consent to register with a specific private company for service. (New Danish Law Will Make Digital Communication with the Public Sector Mandatory, supra.)

Under L 160, the Finance Minister is authorized to select a single vendor to manage the public sector document box system; citizens would have to register with that vendor and accept its terms of service. The public sector document box is already operational, with a vendor, e-Boks, selected at least until 2015, when its contract will be up for renewal. (Id.)

L 159

The other, related legislative proposal, L 159 , “makes it mandatory to use digital self-service systems (similar to online banking) for certain purposes.” (Id.; L 159 Forslag til lov om ændring af lov om Det Centrale Personregister, lov om dag-, fritids- og klubtilbud m.v. til børn og unge, lov om folkeskolen og sundhedsloven, Folketinget website (Apr. 13, 2012).)

L 159 is the first stage of this plan of mandatory electronic self-service for all applications and registrations carried out by citizens. It covers children's school registrations, applications for child daycare service, national health care medical card applications, and moving registrations (citizens must register a new address with the local municipality within five days of their move or face a fine). For such tasks, most municipalities reportedly already have online self-service sytems; what is new is that L 159 makes the use of the systems, to be designed by each municipality, mandatory from December 2012. No specific requirements are set forth for the nature of the systems designed. (New Danish Law Will Make Digital Communication with the Public Sector Mandatory, supra.)

Comments included in L 159, which are “part of the preparatory work for the law, if passed,” are ambiguous, however, about the situation in which a citizen refuses to register for NemID, the joint Internet banking login and digital signature system introduced in 2010 and used by all Danish banks. (Id.) It has been noted that “[w]hile L 159 does not specifically mandate that citizens use NemID, in practice this will be forced upon the Danish citizens since it will not be possible to use the (mandatory) self-service systems without NemID.” (Id.)