Sweden closer to new wire-tapping law

Sweden closer to new wire-tapping law
A controversial proposal to allow wire-tapping of telephone and email traffic that crosses Sweden's borders moved one step closer to becoming law this week after lying dormant in the Riksdag for the past year.

The year-long delay hasn’t changed the nature of the bill, which is set to take effect on January 1st, 2009.

The centre-right majority in the Riksdag Committee on Defence gave its approval to the proposal on Tuesday.

The Social Democrats, the Left Party, and the Green Party voted against the proposal, each for slightly different reasons.

All three want a parliamentary committee to be created to investigate how to protect the privacy of individuals before a final decision is taken.

Citing comments published in the magazine Computer Sweden by the former head of Sweden’s National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA), Anders Wik, Green Party Riksdag member Max Andersson suspects that FRA has already been listening in on telephone calls in violation of current law.

“If FRA has trespassed over the powers which it already has, that is yet another reason not to broaden their power to watch over citizens,” Andersson said in a statement.

He is calling on Minster of Justice Beatrice Ask to initiate a more comprehensive investigation into the proposal.

According to the bill, FRA will carry out surveillance of telephone calls, email traffic, and fax messages carried across Sweden’s borders on cables.

The law also regulates FRA’s ongoing surveillance of the airwaves.

A number of rules have been introduced to protect the privacy of individuals, including a requirement that the authority which monitors the listening activities have the right to decide whether the surveillance should be stopped and the material destroyed.

FRA will also be required to create a privacy protection council.

In addition, the committee wants the government to come back with regulations which contain a number of specifications as well as issue yearly reports.

A special review of how the law has been working will be carried out in 2011.

A full parliamentary debate on the new law is set to take place in the Riksdag on June 17th.