Swedish Privacy – What You Can’t Keep Secret When You Live in Sweden

Do you like to share your age with unknown people? Do you mind if anyone can check your results from your previous studies just by calling your university? You answered the afore mentioned question with yes? Well, then it’s time to adjust to Swedish opinion on privacy.

Don’t bother about secrecy and privacy

When Swedes pay with their credit card in a café a café, they often don’t cover the keys when they type in the pin-code. They simply trust you that you are no thieve or won’t even tell any. (More about “Be honest – How to be Swedish”)

Don’t even bother pulling the curtains at home when you walk around in sleeping gear or just a towel, if you live in a forrest or more than 5 meters distance to your closest neighbor.

More about Swedish culture & quirks, read my book

Book about Sweden - How to be Swedish

How to be Swedish – A Quick Guide to Swedishness – in 55 Steps”, here on Amazon

Who is driving that car in front of me?

Anyone in Sweden can check the name and resident city of the owner of a vehicle just by sending an SMS with the registration number to the traffic agency. The system replies with the requested information. Great if someone parked on your personal parking lot, or if you want to get in touch with a person who you had this intense eye-contact with when you stopped at the traffic lights.

Consider it ok that your personal information isn’t private at all

In Sweden, the government and all state organisations follow a principle called the offentlighetsprincipen, openness principle. Regulated by the tryckfrihetsförordning (freedom of press regulation) it says that all public records have to be documented and made accessible to anyone.

For example, any Swede can call your old university and ask for the results on your exams, without having to state one’s name. The employer of the organisation isn’t even allowed to ask for what reason you request this information.

Generally, this principle was found to give the public the opportunity to control state processes.

Of course there are processes that only few people have access to, like state defense operations. So don’t expect to be able to replace your bed time thrillers with with public state documents.

Anyone can check this information about you if you live in Sweden, simply online, they just need to know your first name, last name and city of residence.

  • full name
  • address
  • phone number
  • relationship status
  • Date of birth

Trust your public authorities

Transparency in public authorities leads to controlling opportunities for everyone. This leads to a society with less injustice and illegal activity (e.g. corruption) but also, some people might find their integrity being harmed.


So, don’t even think about bribing an employee at a municipality to give you some kind of permission. You’ll quickly be able to learn that it will be very difficult to bribe the police or your even your then new neighbors – the other inmates.

1 thought on “Swedish Privacy – What You Can’t Keep Secret When You Live in Sweden”

  1. The Swedish approach to privacy is certainly unique. It definitely has some downsides for vulnerable people with violent spouses or stalkers. (Or single elderly people) Yes, there are mechanisms to help in these situations, but often these individuals have to be well educated on legal protections. The attitude regarding the lack of privacy seems to be very similar to the American attitude to gun control. The same can be said for the Finnish attitude toward conscription. I’ve heard people in each one of these countries say that their very democracy would be under threat if any reforms were made. It would be good to remember that privacy does apply to economic interests in Sweden. Be that the private individual or the state. (Try and find out how much SVT spent on a particular TV series or services) So it’s transparency with Swedish characteristics. There are upsides and there are downsides.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.