Swedish government plans to increase police access to data in crime crackdown

Swedish government plans to increase police access to data in crime crackdown
Home Affairs Minister Mikael Damberg. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT
The Swedish government has launched an inquiry into giving police better access to mobile data, in order to clamp down on criminal networks whose use of modern technology has rendered current crime-fighting tools insufficient and outdated.

Swedish Home Affairs Minister Mikael Damberg argued at a press conference on Wednesday that more information about the way suspects communicate with each other would help authorities prevent a series of criminal offences, from gang violence to thefts targeting the elderly, and sexual offences against minors. “Who communicates with whom, when and where, and who has a certain IP address,” he said.

The law currently forces telephone operators to share their data with Swedish authorities, however tech companies based overseas, such as Facebook, do not yet fall under the same obligations. The government’s goal is to look into how this can be changed, so the inquiry is meant to study possible ways of implementing tougher measures to obtain data from communication companies operating in Sweden.

In June this year, the operation “Trojan Shield” led to the arrest of 800 people globally, including 155 people in Sweden. Police credited this to the use of an app created by FBI programmers, which was spread by undercover agents among criminal networks to gather evidence.

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But concerns have been raised about privacy as authorities gain more access to personal communication. The inquiry is also to take into consideration how to strike the balance between gathering more data on criminal activities and safeguarding the integrity of individuals.

The European Court of Justice has previously rejected an EU directive on data gathering, which slowed down the implementation of a legal framework to force telephone operators to share their data on a European level. But Damberg said it may be possible to roll out similar rules in Sweden without having to wait for an EU directive to eventually come into effect.

“During this summer we saw that some people have no limits to their violence,” Damberg said at the press conference, which followed a series of high-profile shootings that have taken place over the past months in Sweden. Last month a police officer was killed in Gothenburg and statistics have indicated an increase in deadly shootings in Sweden since the year 2000 which led to the government’s decision to review the tools available for gathering crime preventing data.

The final report of the inquiry is expected to be presented in February 2023, leaving the decision on legislation to the new Swedish government, which will be elected in September next year.


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