Why a Data Breach Scandal Could Topple Sweden’s Government

Why a Data Breach Scandal Could Topple Sweden’s Government
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, right, announces the removal of two government ministers in response to a no-confidence motion by the opposition, Stockholm, July 27, 2017 (TT photo by Erik Simander via AP).

A data breach scandal involving the government’s failure to safeguard information from access by private contractors has ended the tenure of top ministers in Sweden’s government and threatened to bring down the ruling coalition. The scandal has also exposed the precariousness of the country’s newly fractured political system. In an email interview, Jonas Hinnfors, professor of political science at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg, explains the causes and implications of the scandal, and how a divided political system may or may not allow the ruling coalition to survive.

WPR: What is the nature of the so-called data breach scandal, when did it come to light, and what has been the fallout so far?

Jonas Hinnfors: The main issue regarding the scandal, which was originally revealed by one of Sweden’s leading broadsheets, has to do with apparent failures by a key government agency—the Swedish Transport Agency—to install safeguards preventing potentially sensitive information from being handled by private contractors that don’t have security clearances. From a political standpoint, the primary focus has been on whether or not the various responsible government ministers acted quickly enough—and sufficiently coordinated their response without resorting to any cover-up activities—to prevent any security fallout.

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