onsdag den 30. juli 2008

Swedish Surveillance Case - New Comments

According to Computerworld.dk, http://www.computerworld.dk/art/47163?a=newsletter&i=1914, the Swedish MOD Sten Tolgfors has stated in the media that surveillance of all electronic communication is crucial to evaluate and act against external threats and plots directed towards Swedish interests, citizens or authorities. This of course is the reasoning behind the newly accepted and much debated Swedish act, that allows the Swedish Defense Radioservice (FRA) to collect and analyze the content of all electronic communication going in and out of Sweden.

But the Swedish minister added to this general statement, that the way the FRA is operating based on the new law will be in a way where individuals, particularly Swedish inidviduals are not the target for the surveillance, but other states and organisations in other countries with a direct interest in Sweden. Tolgfors further claimed that the only individuals that would have their electronic communication surveilled would be known terrorists or gangsters. He also lifted the curtain or the type of technology used to scan this enourmous amount of data:

'Very advanced search techniques are being deployed,' her said, 'that ensures that only information concerning some of the key variables for which FRA is looking, will be selected and stored. Everything else will pass on.' (Svenska Dagbladet) ( http://www.svd.se/nyheter/inrikes/artikel_1436287.svd ). He also stated that it would be 'practically impossible' to scan all communnication, and further that a parliamentary committee is looking at ways to clarify the legiaslation and to build integrity measures into the rules, that eventually will govern the practical apllication of the law.

For lay people and for some fanatics this is not good enough, but it clearly illustrates the dillemma that all nations are facing these days: Even if natural disasters are muh more likely than terrorism to kill and injure people, there is a strong political interest in strengthening surveillance to increase the perceived security level. And if you look into it, the Swedish Minister may have a point, depending on how the legislation in it's final form actually will be formulated.

Without amendments a simple permission to capture any communication would without doubt be contractory to the wording and the spirit of the European Human Rights as stated in my earlier blog. This goes without any argument like 'it is not practically possible' - because storage constraints are disappearing, and technology progressing; instead an amendment stating that the surveillance will be made following clear criteria and using advanced techniques to encrypt any linkage until a 'hit' with a wanted list or linkage of message to known criminals occur.

Tools like this actually exist - but the exact wording of the Swedish Law plus the accompanying administrative rules should be discussed the Working Party 29 before the law comes into effect - this advice would help clarify for all European nations where the borderline is between privacy and security. The discussions following the Swedish Act clearly illustrates the need to draw this line in a way that can be communicated also to people without technical understanding as well as to Stefan Engberg.

(Illustration above made by Anders Duus Østergaard - another way of identifying an ugly duckling or? )

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