European Country Debates Spying On Citizens

Dennis Faas's picture

Think regular old spyware is bad? How about government-inspired spyware? Most Americans probably forget the 'liberties' their government takes in intercepting phone and Internet traffic. Across the pond, Sweden is the latest European country whose national security worries have made spying on citizens the subject of a contentious bill.

The government is debating implementation of a plan similar to an American surveillance program launched in 2001 that would facilitate the Ministry of Defense in 'combating terrorism'. The bill was originally introduced and rejected three years ago, but was resurrected last year after a change in government. (Source:

The program is intended to allow the government to monitor the phone and Internet use of suspect persons without a court order but would only cover correspondence that crosses the Swedish border. It will, according to reports, contain "data mining software to search for sensitive keywords in all phone and email communication passing through cables or wires across the country's borders."

Critics have attacked the government's promises that non-international correspondence between Swedes will not be targeted. As a critical opposition party leader has noted, most Internet signals, even if they are traveling within the same country, may cross the border and come back, depending on where satellites or servers are located. Thus, it would be next to impossible to obey the parameters set out in the legislation. (Source:

Government surveillance is a slippery slope. The problem with this bill is that it either has to be all or nothing. Even if they are provisions set, they are likely going to be broken.

However, there are some European examples that seem to have appropriate safeguards. Britain, for example, is far stricter. It requires the Secretary of State to approve any email interception, but the evidence is inadmissible in court. There is no information, however, about how this works in practice. (Source:

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