Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

Internet Under Surveillance 2004 - Denmark

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, Internet Under Surveillance 2004 - Denmark, 2004, available at: [accessed 16 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
  • Population: 5,351,000
  • Internet users: 2,756,000 (2002)
  • Average charge for 20 hours of connection: 14 euros
  • DAI*: 0.83
  • Situation**: good

Denmark has incorporated into its law controversial European directives about the Internet. However, civil society, which is especially alert about cyber-freedoms, has forced the government to add safeguards to protect individual liberties.

Denmark is second only to Sweden in the International Telecommunication Union's ranking of how far countries have adopted the Internet.

Like most European Union states in the wake of the 11 September attacks, Denmark made substantial revisions to its laws in October 2001 in an effort to fight terrorism more effectively. These included new steps to legalise retention of telecommunications data, including e-mail and Internet activity, and allow police faster and easier access to it.

A May 2002 anti-terrorist law extended the minimum time for retention of such data to a year and allowed the intelligence service (PET) and the police to examine it with a court's permission where serious crimes were involved. The police were also empowered to install on ISP servers software similar to the US Carnivore system to record keystrokes and intercept e-mail. But the new anti-terrorist laws have not yet been implemented by the ministries of justice and science, technology and innovation.

Parliament approved a measure in June 2003 to fight organised crime by amending the criminal code and giving police power to install spy software on the computers of suspects.

Responsibility of website hosts

Denmark has very faithfully incorporated the 2000 European e-commerce directive (see chapter on European Institutions) into its laws. The directive says website hosts are responsible for content put out by ISPs and can be prosecuted if they do not block access to illegal content as soon as they learn of its existence. This means hosts are responsible for deciding whether content is illegal.

The government set up a commission in 2002 to protect citizens' online rights. It made recommendations in June 2003 about hosts' responsibility to ensure the e-commerce directive did not undermine Internet users' freedom of expression.

The controversy over illegal online content erupted anew in January 2003, when police received a complaint that the daily paper Politiken had allowed racist remarks to be posted on a discussion forum on its website. The paper was not prosecuted but several other papers shut down their website chat-rooms as a result.


* The DAI (Digital Access Index) has been devised by the International Telecommunications Union to measure the access of a country's inhabitants to information and communication technology. It ranges from 0 (none at all) to 1 (complete access).

** Assessment of the situation in each country (good, middling, difficult, serious) is based on murders, imprisonment or harassment of cyber-dissidents or journalists, censorship of news sites, existence of independent news sites, existence of independent ISPs and deliberately high connection charges.

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