Seamus K - Irish tech industry expat living in Sweden.

Day: 31 January 2016

Will there be a new Safe Harbour?

Since Safe Harbour fell last year it has been interesting watching the efforts to replace it. Max Schrems is to be congratulated for bringing to an end the “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to the previous arrangements. Now everyone seems to admit they were inadequate and a replacement is needed.

The trick is how to get there when there can be very different views on privacy, people’s rights (especially non citizens), and expectations around them.

One of the interesting perspectives I read about it all was this one from Ars Technica, which talks about the way the original CJEU ruling was framed. As they say:

The careful legal reasoning used by the CJEU to reach its decisions will make its rulings extremely hard, if not impossible, to circumvent, since they are based on the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

So a fudge around tweaking existing laws or regulations will not be adequate.

Most of the discussion on the replacement have been happening behind closed doors, though there have been plenty of leaks. According to The Register the need for reform of Safe Harbour had been seen for a while, and suggestions had been made. However:

Not one of those recommendations was implemented by the US before the European Court of Justice struck down the agreement. Since October, occasional leaks over the negotiations have repeatedly pointed to intransigence on the part of the US intelligence services as the main stumbling block.

With the January 31st deadline about to expire things are down to the wire. I see now (via Jonathan King) that the US senate is pushing through legislation  which is supposed to boost protection that Europeans can enjoy in US courts.

Personally I am a bit concerned that the details of this protection seems pretty restrictive and limiting:

the right to request access to records shared by their governments with U.S. agencies in the course of a criminal investigation, correct those records if they are wrong, and sue if the records are illegally disclosed.

That does not seem to address the routine data slurping that has been occurring.

And the legislation is only with a senate committee. An actual vote, or one with the other chamber is not likely to happen any time soon. The questions I come away with are:

  • Will this actually get passed?
  • Will it be adequate?

And from a personal perspective, how do these new protections for EU citizens compare to the ones Americans get? The latest proposal matches legislation from the 1970s for US citizens. But they also get constitutional protection (in theory) from surveillance by their own state. That is not something Europeans can expect.

I will be surprised if we reach a solution in this before before the end of February. With the EU having to take action after than, companies are going to be looking for local solutions to protect themselves.


Hiking in Sweden with

Being in a new country makes it hard to know where to go to for hikes and walks. Good for me then that I found the Stockholm Outdoor group on Meetup and they had a walk this weekend north of Stockholm.

As my first meetup I didn’t know what to expect. It turned out to be  a pretty mixed group. The leaders, and core were Swedes who have a love of walking hiking* and seem to be the regular organisers of events. Most of the rest are expats. Everyone I talked to had some degree of walking experience. It was pretty friendly group and it was easy to strike up conversations as you went along. Much like any hiking group really.

Swedish trail walking

The walk itself was along a route through the Runby nature reserve, and alongside Lake Mälaren. For the most part we were on a way marked trail. In Sweden this means that you could be on a road, or path, and sometimes you go cross country on slightly rougher ground. But there was nothing technical or unsuitable for children lets say. The trail was marked by orange paint spots and bird houses in trees. A map would be a good idea, but it would be very hard to get lost.

This being outside Stockholm it was pretty level. We went up one or two hills, but I doubt any of them was more than 60m high. Oh, and the weather was good. Cold (about freezing), but little wind, and other than one small snow/sleet shower it was dry and clear all day.

View over lake Mälaren.The scenery was pretty good. The start was in a suburb and then we headed into the woods. Much of the route skirted Lake Mälaren, so the views were nice. We had lunch on a small hill top which was the site of some iron age ruins, and we even passed a Swedish castle on the way home**.

A highlight though was seeing all the people skating on the lake. Most were doing the same thing we were – going on a long distance excursion, just on the ice. What I learned about this type of skating was:

  • You need a big rucksack to hold a full change of clothes and foot wear in a waterproof bag. It will help with buoyancy if you do fall in.
  • Ice can hold about 100kg per cm of thickness. But generally wait until it is 5cm thick before going out on it.
  • Today it was 20cm thick, so you could have driven on it!

Skaters on the ice at lage Mälaren.It was a good day out. I will definitely try and get hiking/walking with the group again. I did miss getting to go up something, but the walk and the company were worth the trip, and I will be back.


* I kept referring to it as a “walk” and I kept getting corrected. Probably residual snobbery from my mountaineering days, where if there isn’t at least 500m of ascent, it can’t actually be a hike.

** My tracker say 19.25km, with 390m ascent. Which apparently was 1400kcal burned with another 300 kcal cycling to and from the station. So I don’t feel guilty about the tea and biscuits I had back home.

All the photos:


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