Icelandic Bar Association Concerned About Increased Police Surveillance Powers

Jón Gunnarsson Minister of Justice

A new bill that would increase Icelandic police’s powers to monitor people who are not suspected of crimes is concerning to the Chairman of the Icelandic Bar Association. The Association submitted plenty of comments on the Justice Minister’s amendment bill to the Police Act, RÚV reports. 

Decisions on surveillance would rest solely in police hands

A new bill introduced by Minister of Justice Jón Gunnarsson proposes giving police more power to gather information and carry out surveillance in order to reduce crime. The Bar Association’s comments on the bill criticised that the decision-making power for such activities would rest solely with police. “We believe that increased legal certainty consists in these actions requiring a court order,” stated Sigurður Örn Hilmarsson, the chairman of the Icelandic Bar Association.

Sigurður stated he is concerned that the proposed surveillance is quite general and quite extensive. “There are, of course, some conditions in the bill, but it give the police authority to monitor people’s movements without they themselves being under suspicion of criminal conduct, whether or not they have committed a crime or are preparing to commit a crime,” he stated.

When it comes to investigating the most serious crimes, such as terrorism or organised crime, Sigurður says such cases would be better placed in the hands of a dedicated organisation, such as an intelligence service, if such an organisation is deemed necessary.

Submarine Cable Between Iceland and Ireland Begins Operation

Better telecommunications security and speedier cloud services are two of the benefits of a new submarine cable connecting Iceland and Ireland, RÚV reports. The cable, named ÍRIS, began operating yesterday and is the third submarine cable installed and operated by state-owned Icelandic company Farice. The first two are FARICE-1 and DANICE, which connect Iceland to the UK and Denmark, respectively.

“We have evaluated that with the arrival [of ÍRIS], we are increasing Iceland’s international telecommunications security tenfold,” stated Þorvarður Sveinsson. One of the reasons the company decided to lay submarine cables to Ireland is that the country hosts facilities of many tech companies. One example are Microsoft cloud services, and Þorvarður says the new cable should increase their speed for users in Iceland. “The transit time that it takes our data to go between Iceland and these data centres in Dublin is decreasing,” Þorvarður explained.

Farice has additional submarine cable projects in the works, including a pan-Arctic cable connecting Iceland to Japan, set to be completed by the end of 2026. It will be the first Arctic route connecting Asia with Europe through the Northwest Passage and should greatly reduce the optical distance between the continents, minimising latency.

Grímsey Ferry Out of Service for 6-8 Weeks

Grímsey

The ferry that connects the 53 residents of Grímsey island to the mainland of Iceland will be out of commission for 6-8 weeks this spring for regular maintenance, RÚV reports. No backup transportation has yet been found to move either people or goods to and from the island during that period. One local city councillor says it is the equivalent of cutting off a mainland town in Iceland from the Ring Road.

Grímsey falls under the municipality of Akureyri, North Iceland. Akureyri Municipal Council has criticised the situation and says the Road and Coastal Administration of Iceland, which owns and operates the Grímsey ferry, has not been keeping residents informed about the situation.

“The thing is that ferry routes are just like Route One [the main highway around Iceland] and we would of course not accept any community being cut off from the main transport artery,” Akureyri Councillor Halla Björk Reynisdóttir stated. The Grímsey ferry is not only used to transport people but also goods, including the fish caught by Grímsey fishermen. Sólveig Gísladóttir of the Road and Coastal Administration’s communication department stated that the organisation is working towards a solution and it should be found and presented to residents by the end of the week.

Grímsey residents have long been calling for a replacement for their island’s ferry. Sæfari, as the current ferry is named, was initially supposed to be used for 10 years but has now been operating for 15. The maintenance to be done on the ferry this coming April and May is meant to extend its lifetime by a few more years.

New App for Learning Icelandic Vocabulary

Háskóli Íslands University of Iceland

Academics and students at the University of Iceland have created a new mobile and computer app that uses flashcards to teach Icelandic vocabulary. The flashcard deck contains the 4,000 most frequently used words in Icelandic and provides translations into English, Polish, Chinese, and Ukrainian.

“Flashcards [are] a well-known and well-established method used in diverse studies. The cards used to be made out of paper but now they are usually digital on phones or in computers,” says Anton Karl Ingason, associate professor of Icelandic linguistics and language technology at the University of Iceland. Anton has developed the app, called IceFlash 4K, along with Xindan Xu, Veronika Teresa Kolka, and Alesia Kovaleva at the University of Iceland’s Institute of Linguistics.

“There has been rapid progress in Icelandic language technology in recent years, both when it comes to software and databases,” Anton stated. “We also believe that there is a considerable demand for tools to facilitate learning Icelandic; this project is thus a certain contribution to meet this demand.”

The vocabulary app is open to all and is free of charge. Anton stated that the database behind the teaching tool is open source, making it easier for other developers to create language-learning tools built in part on IceFlash 4K.

Instructions on how to set up the app are available in the YouTube video below. See Iceland Review’s comprehensive guide to online resources for learning Icelandic.