2008-06-17

Law on communications tapping scorned from abroad

The Swedish FRA law is condemned by several international NGOs. Among these are Privacy International, a London based foundation based in 50 countries which works against electronic monitoring of citizens and for a stronger protection of privacy and openness.

Privacy International's vice secretary general David Banisar has followed the debate of the Swedish FRA law for some time.

"I can't imagine how this law is going to be able to meet the demands of the European Declaration of Human Rights, Banisar says to DN.


He can't think of any European equivalents to the FRA law, and says it's one of the most far reaching acts he has seen in this field:

"The closest you get, the way I see it, is the controversial decision of the Bush administration to bypass the law and monitor all American communications with other countries, even that on internal matters."


Echelon is a huge American-British network for search pattern basedlinetaping, the largest information collection and monitoring network that has ever existed. According to Privacy International, Echelon is able to get itself into and spy on the tele- and data trafic of almost any country and with very limited judicial control. The system is estimated to catch around 3 billion communications a day.

Echelon is primarily controlled by the US and the UK, but Australia, New Zeeland and Canada also adds to the surveillance.

Surprisingly enough, David Banisar claims that the FRA in a way actually works in an even broader fashion.

"In reality it will contain Swedish domestical communication as well, if it happens to cross the borders."


The European Federation of Journalists, EFJ, has also made a statement where they condemn the Swedish bill proposal. Electronic monitoring of tele- and e-mail communications is breaking international and European legislation, the EFJ concludes. In the European Parliament the FRA bill is questioned by, among others, the French MEP Benoît Hamon, prominent socialist and former coworker of Martin Aubry, minister of Labour in the Jospin administration. Hamon has written a letter with a number of questions about the bill to the European Convention: He wants to know if the Convention believes that the FRA bill is compatible with European legislation and with the European Declaration of Human Rights. He also asks if the Commision has any idea wether or not the Swedish government has taken any measure to protect non-Swedes. He also asks if there are any connections to monitoring networks ouside of the EU, primarily Echelon.

Håkan Jevrell, state secretary in the Ministry of Defence, claimed in DN yesterday that the Swedish law isn't unique in the world or in Europe. However, his only concrete example was Echelon.

In fact, it is very hard to get a greater picture of what models of surveillance that are in use in other EU countries, and if they can be compared with the FRA bill. Except for the UK, the Netherlands and Germany has implemented some fort of surveillance. But details about how these countrie control their signal fishing, or other European example, are things that the Ministry of Defense hasn't been able to provide DN with.

"I don't think we have any such informations specifically about tapping withing the EU", department employee Per Anderman says.


Tove Nandorf, DN

Sweden steps away from democracy

World+dog ignores Sweden's Draconian wiretap bill
'If your email crosses our border, we tap it'
By Dan Goodin in San Francisco
Published Wednesday 4th June 2008 20:27 GMT

Sweden is on the verge of passing a far-reaching wiretapping program that would greatly expand the government's spying capabilities by permitting it to monitor all email and telephone traffic coming in and out of the country.

So far, hacks from the mainstream Swedish press seem to be on holiday, so news about the proposed law is woefully hard to come by. That leaves us turning to this summary from the decidedly partisan Swedish Pirate Party for details. We'd prefer to rely on a more neutral group, but that wasn't possible this time. According to them, here's a broad outline:

The En anpassad försvarsunderrättelseverksamhet bill (which loosely translates to "a better adapted military intelligence gathering") gives Sweden's National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA) direct access to the traffic passing through its borders. Now remember, we're talking about the internet, which frequently routes packets though multiple geographically dispersed hops before they reach their final destination.

This all but guarantees that emails and voice over IP (VoIP) calls between Swedes will routinely be siphoned into a massive monitoring machine. And we wouldn't be surprised if traffic between parties with no tie to the country regularly passes through Sweden's border as well, and that too would be fair game. (For example, email sent from a BT address in London to Finland is likely to pass through Sweden first.)

Once intercepted, the data will be searched for certain keywords, and those that contain the words will be pulled aside for additional scrutiny. A broad array of organizations will have use of the system, including the Department of Transportation, the Department of Agriculture, the police, secret service and customs, and in some cases major businesses. The bill allows Swedes to be singled out, as well.

When the bill was introduced in early 2007, Google was reportedly so concerned about its consequences for privacy that it threatened to limit its ties to the country if the measure passed.

"We have contacted Swedish authorities to give our view of the proposal and we have made it clear that we will never place any servers inside Sweden's borders if the proposal goes through," Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, said last year, according to this article. "We simply cannot compromise our users' integrity by allowing Swedish authorities access to data that may not even concern Swedish activity."

But so far, few outside of the pro-privacy universe have bothered to discuss the bill this time around. There have been no similar pronouncements from Google and representatives there didn't respond to a request for comment. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has likewise been reticent about the bill.

"Surprisingly enough, there hasn't been that much written about it, even in the Swedish media," said Patrik Runald, a Swedish national and a security response manager for F-Secure who works in San Jose, California.

"The funny thing is when asked what do you want to look for, [backers of the bill] don't really specify what they're interested in," he continued. "It's a very broad bill. They basically can interpret whatever they like."

One of the few recent press mentions of the bill came from a publication called Cellular News in London. According to this story, Nordic and Baltic telecommunications provider TeliaSonera planned to move email servers out of Sweden to protect the privacy of its Finnish customers.

The bill is scheduled to come up for a vote on June 17. According to the Swedish Pirate Party, a majority of parliament currently backs the bill.
Source: The Register

I am seriously starting to worry about Swedish democracy.

1: When this law is passed, Sweden has taken a huge and almost irrevocable step towards abandoning democracy.

2: This step has been taken by systematic cheating (votes and debates during times when many are away, i.e. Christmas vacations and similar) and lies to the press and on official websites.

3: This step has been part of a strategy that has been used more or less since the same year that Swedish political society - around year 2000 - unanimously said that we will never again mass monitor our citizens.

4: This step has been taken because both the left wing and the right wing parties have pushing for it.

5: It is enough that four parliament members from any of the governing parties votes against it for it to be turned down. However, several of said politicians who claim they are against this law has told media that they will either vote to pass the law just the same in fear of reprisals or bad blood from their party peers (the so-called "party whip") or that they will refrain from voting alltogether for the same reasons.

6: Mass media has shunned to write anything about this untill last week, when it was clear that hundereds of blog posts has taken it up, when hundereds of upset people have mailed their MPs to protest, and when the campaign site against this law has had hundereds of thousands of visits within the span of a week. Now, suddenly, all news papers write about it. From various angles.

7: The Pirate Party released an mp3 recording of a conversation with the chairman of the FRA admitting that the authority has already been monitoring trafic en masse for several years without being permitted to do so by law.

8: Sweden's leading TV news show has also uncovered that FRA has done this monitoring, and well aware that there are serious legal issues surrounding the procedures.

9: Several other authorities, expert panels, unions, concideration bodies, union of journalists, union of lawyers, the National Security Service and others have all shunned this law as unconstitional and anti-democratic.

And still, it seems like the Swedish parliament will ignore all these facts and pass this law on Wednesday.