2008-06-17

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.

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