STOCKHOLM – Internet freedom activists plan to protest U.S. online spying when Barack Obama visits Stockholm this week, but Swedish officials say they won’t raise the sensitive issue with the U.S. president.
Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said Monday that government surveillance of the Internet is “going on worldwide” and is not something on the agenda during Obama’s visit Wednesday and Thursday.
“We are not entirely innocent ourselves,” Bildt said. “We conduct both intelligence and security operations on the Net. But they are regulated by law. And we have stringent safeguards and surveillance of them.”
He also noted that the European Union already is in discussions about “data privacy” issues with the United States.
The Swedish government sees itself as a champion of Internet freedom but critics have accused it of a double standard for not speaking out against U.S. surveillance programs exposed by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
“It is astonishing and awful that they don’t want to raise this issue,” said Anna Troberg, a spokeswoman for Sweden’s small Pirate Party, which advocates online freedom without government interference.
Troberg said she hopes thousands of Swedes will join a peaceful demonstration Wednesday that the Pirate Party and others are planning.
Obama is visiting Sweden before traveling to a Group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Police say up to 600 officers from around the country will beef up security in the Swedish capital and large parts of downtown Stockholm will be closed off during the first bilateral visit to Sweden by a U.S. president.