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Everything You Need To Know About The Crazy Scandal That May Bring Down The Swedish Government

It all comes back to a very bad IT deal.

Last updated on July 27, 2017, at 10:26 a.m. ET

Posted on July 26, 2017, at 4:14 p.m. ET

Things aren't going great in Sweden right now — the prime minister may be about to resign, and huge amounts of personal and sensitive data may have been leaked.

Stina Stjernkvist / AFP / Getty Images

"Is this the result of a massive hack?" you ask. Actually, it's all thanks to an IT deal the country's transportation agency made two years ago.

Channel 4

In 2015, Sweden's Transport Agency decided to award IBM a shiny new contract to move data from two transport departments to one new one.

Channel 4

The former director general of the agency, Maria Ågren, reportedly rushed through the contract as she was under a lot of pressure from her bosses.

Channel 4

Against the advice of her then–security adviser, she decided to *not* apply certain Swedish laws focused on protecting access to personal data, privacy, and security to the deal.

Channel 4

The Transport Agency pushed details of every registered driver on its database to the newly implemented IBM cloud — including the names of those who are part of witness protection programs.

Channel 4

Companies — both Swedish and foreign — that subscribe to this database received a push from the database on March 10, 2016, listing everyone's details. When a private company emailed the agency about the data leak, the agency did not request to companies that they delete the database.

Instead, the agency emailed everyone and helpfully pointed out which users on the list were deemed "sensitive," i.e. part of a witness protection program, and asked the companies to remove the data themselves.

Channel 4

This led to an investigation into the agency and the contract. In January, Ågren was fired for undisclosed reasons.

Channel 4

She was fined roughly 70,000 kronor ($8,500) following an investigation by Säpo, the Swedish security service, that found her guilty of being "careless with secret information."

Just as an FYI — this fine is basically equivalent to half a month's salary for her.

Documents from the Säpo investigation into Ågren and the agency were leaked to Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter in July.

Channel 4

Here's a rundown of some of the information alleged to have been leaked or made available:

* Names, photographs, and home addresses of Swedish Air Force fighter pilots.

* Personal information relating to the military’s personnel in top units, equivalent to the British SAS or the US’s SEAL teams.

* List of weight, model, and type of military hardware currently in use by Swedish forces.

* As many as two police registry databases, including (again) names, photos, and home addresses of those listed on it.

* Information about those on the witness relocation program.

Pirate Party founder Rik Falkvinge, head of privacy at a VPN provider, claimed the data release “exposed and leaked every conceivable top secret database".

And this is who had access to all the information:

* Personnel in the Czech Republic, contracted out to IBM, had access to all the data and logs within the Swedish database.

* Meanwhile, contractors in Serbia managed firewalls and communications, so workers may have also been able to monitor what information was being shared between the Transport Agency and 24 other Swedish government agencies, according to Dagens Nyheter.

Top politicians remained hush-hush about it all until Monday, when the Swedish PM Stefan Löfven admitted he had known about the leak since January.

Channel 4

His interior and defense ministers had apparently known for the past 18 months.

This did not go down well and has resulted in a major crisis inside the Swedish government.

Tt News Agency / Reuters

Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, Interior Minister Anders Ygeman, and Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson are all facing a no-confidence vote from parliament. On Thursday, the PM announced that both Ygeman and Johansson would leave their position. Hultqvist remained in post despite mounting pressure.

Lofven defended the reshuffle on Thursday by telling reporters in Stockholm he did not want "political chaos".

Yesterday, controversial anti-immigration party the Sweden Democrats said that unless all three ministers go, it'll bring a no-confidence motion against the whole government.

As pressure mounts on the PM, there are calls for him to call an early election or hand over responsibility to the opposition Alliance grouping of center-right parties.

Erik Simander / AFP / Getty Images

(These guys.)

That's bad news for the prime minister, who's beset on all sides — including from allies.

Channel 4

Together, the four separate Swedish opposition parties brought together under the umbrella of the Alliance coalition hold 141 seats. They would be able to hold a majority in the parliament if they allied themselves with the Sweden Democrats.

Meanwhile, Lofven's minority government, supported by the Left Party, holds 159 seats. He governs with support from right-wing parties in the Alliance group, rather than allying with the Sweden Democrats.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Swedish politicians had been recalled from their summer vacation to parliament. But on Thursday the PM confirmed his minority government will not resign.

Channel 4

What's actually going to be done about all the data that's already out there in the world remains to be seen.


Lofven's minority government currently has 159 seats, and governs with occasional support from the Left Party. The Alliance coalition holds 141 seats. An earlier version of this post stated incorrect figures.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.