From Iceland — Police Lurking In Closed Facebook Groups, Cracking Down

Police Lurking In Closed Facebook Groups, Cracking Down

Published November 12, 2015

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Rebecca Conway

Police are lurking in closed Facebook groups, regularly surveilling for illegal activity, and in some cases monitoring individual posting activity.

RÚV reports that over the past few months, the police have been monitoring a closed Facebook called “Skutlarar” (roughly translated as “those who give people a ride somewhere”), wherein Icelanders either ask someone to drive them somewhere, or offer to give people a ride somewhere, usually in exchange for money. Arrangements are sometimes made in private messages, but often they are made on the group’s wall. However, Icelandic law is strict when it comes to having a license to drive people places for pay.

While it was initially reported that the police are powerless to stop the practice for legal reasons, they are still nonetheless not only monitoring this group, but also taking action.

Police reportedly contact anyone offering a ride in exchange for money. The police inform the person in question that what they are doing is illegal. While many drivers subsequently back down from offering the service, if they continue it, the police not only contact them again, but also follow their posting activity.

As this is a closed Facebook group offering a service that, while illegal, is difficult to enforce against, closed Facebook groups offering illegal services or products that are easier to enforce against may already be under police surveillance.

RÚV reported last May that there is little the police can do about Skutlarar until the Prosecution Division delivers a ruling on the matter, which is still pending. For now, police are powerless because while the law does grant the power to strip professional drivers of their operating license for misusing it, a person cannot be stripped of an operational license if they do not have one in the first place.

A bill from the Ministry of the Interior hopes to change that, adding penalties for giving people rides for money without an operating license. Those penalties include fines from 10,000 ISK up to 5 million. The bill has yet to be made into law.

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