[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [judgment text] unanimously Tuesday that Finland [official website] violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text] - the "right to respect for private and family life" - in a case involving a minor targeted by pedophiles. In K.U. v. Finland (application no. 2872/02), the court found that Finnish authorities failed to provide a legal framework to protect the applicant's rights when his privacy was invaded by a personal ad with sexual connotations that was posted on the Internet without his knowledge. The applicant was 12 years old at the time of the incident in 1999. The court said [press release] that at the time the incident occurred, the Finnish legislature should have already identified the need and provided a legal "framework for reconciling the confidentiality of Internet services with the prevention of disorder or crime" so that that there would have been a legal basis for the Helsinki District Court [official website, in Finnish] to oblige the Internet service provider to identify the culprit. Within the next three months from the date of the judgment, Finnish authorities may request that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber of the ECHR, but such requests are only granted in exceptional cases that raise a serious question affecting the interpretation or application of the convention or its protocols.
The Finnish legislature subsequently passed the Exercise of Freedom of Expression in Mass Media Act [unofficial translation, PDF] that now provides a remedy to victims of Internet crime, but it was not in effect at the time of the incident. After the district court declined to oblige the Internet service provider to identify the user, the case was affirmed by the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of Finland declined to hear the case. The case was filed with the ECHR in January 2002, but was not declared admissible until June 2006.