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Birgitta Jonsdottir, Iceland

Birgitta Jonsdottir: "My main objective is to find global legal solutions to protect everyone’s digital privacy" ©IPU

In what way has the investigation by US authorities impacted on your work as an MP?

I was advised by my lawyers in the USA and by the Icelandic foreign affairs ministry not to travel to the USA while my case was on-going and the aggression towards WikiLeaks was at its peak. This prevented me from establishing valuable contacts with people also working in law-making in regard to online privacy, freedom of information, whistleblowers, and freedom of expression and speech.

I am happy to report that I have been able to travel there since April 2013.

I was also advised to not show public support for Bradley Manning (now Chelsea Manning) but I could not honour that request; it felt wrong for to me censor my views even if it meant I could lose my legal case.

Have you changed your online habits since US authorities began their investigation?

Having been an activist for a long time before I became an MP, I have always been careful online because the organizations I have been part of have been monitored by the authorities. We even had an undercover policeman pose as one of us. I am aware that everything I do as an MP and as an individual within the digital world is like sending open postcards.

After my personal experience, my main objective is to find global legal solutions to protect everyone’s digital privacy. I use PGP encryption for emails from my private account but the Icelandic parliament does not enable me to use that option with parliamentary emails. And most parliamentarians do not understand the importance of encryption and do not know how to use it.

How has the investigation impacted you personally?

It has made me more passionate about finding legal solutions for everyone in relation to protecting our online communications. I am still an activist and will challenge these oppressive tactics all the way.

In what way do you think IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of MPs has helped your case?

It was of tremendous importance that IPU put forward a resolution on this matter. It gave the case an added sense of urgency and importance in the global context. I do hope we can carry on the important work on global policy-making in dealing with the revelations from the whistle-blower Edward Snowden, which have revealed the privacy issue is much worse than even I had been aware of.

What developments have there been in your case?

I have lost my case at each stage of the USA justice system. We decided not take it to the last stage because I didn’t want to risk a ruling that could have had implications for other people too. My lawyers are still pressing the authorities to reveal the names of the other four companies, apart from Twitter, that were forced to hand over my private data.