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Sweden to extend police powers on data access

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Sweden to extend police powers on data access
11:17 CEST+02:00
The Swedish government wants to extend the powers of police and prosecutors to access personal details from internet service providers in cases of less serious offences such as file sharing, libel and grooming.

Currently, ISPs may be required to hand over IP address and personal details of customers suspected of crimes subject to custodial sentences, but the government wants to extend the law to cover offences that are punishable only by fines.

The proposals are including in a justice department memorandum read by the TT news agency, in which is stated, "Procurement is proposed to be possible for all crimes, namely the requirement that imprisonment should be prescribed for the offence, and that according to the authority's judgement could result in penalties other than fines, should be removed."

Furthermore, it is proposed that the police be given access to information from mobile telephone operators detailing the location of missing persons if there is an established risk to their life or well-being.

The changes are proposed to be introduced in connection with the adoption of the EU Data Retention Directive. Sweden has previously been reluctant to implement the directive, which was approved by Brussels in March 2006.

The Swedish government was instructed by the European Court of Justice in February to adopt the measure and assured the court that the directive would be expected to pass into Swedish law on April 1st.

The directive was passed in the wake of the Madrid and London terrorist bombings. Seen as an important tool in combating terrorism, it raised concerns from privacy advocates. The Swedish justice minister Beatrice Ask has repeatedly expressed reservations over the scope of the powers that it confers.

The news of the the government's proposals has been met with criticism from the Pirate Party.

"It is unfortunately evident that a large surveillance apparatus has been developed to be able to get at regular, honourable people who exchange films and music with each other," wrote Mikael Nilsson of the Pirate Party in a statement on Wednesday.

The Centre Party's Johan Linander, vice chair of the Riksdag Committee on Justice, has also been critical of the directive, which forces ISPs and mobile phone operators to save customer records for six months, but conceded that the proposed changes are positive.

"We can not have legislation which places different demands depending on the nature of the crime, this is broad legislation which gives the police access to this information," he said to Sverige Radio's P3 Nyheter news programme.

"To investigate sexual molestation, libel, insults and grooming, the types of internet crimes which have unfortunately become increasingly common," he added.

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