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citizen movement Swiss voters to decide on fate of ‘social detectives’

handing in signatures

The initiators of the campaign against the social detectives legislation hand in the signatures to the Federal Chancellery in Bern, Thursday July 5.

(Keystone)

Activists opposed to legislation granting more surveillance powers to so-called social welfare detectives have collected the signatures needed to bring the issue to a national vote. The referendum will be held on November 25.

A total of 50,000 valid signatures collected within 100 days are needed to force a referendum on such legislation; activists opposed to the ‘social detectives’ law gathered just under 75,500 since March, of which 55,861 were valid, it was announced on Thursday.

The signatures were handed into the Federal Chancellery and, once confirmed, will mean that Swiss citizens will vote on the issue on November 25 next, along with the questions of national self-determination and cattle farmer subsidies for horn cows.

At stake are the proposed extra powers to be granted to private detectives who – by request of public and private insurance companies – can spy on welfare recipients to weed out fraud.

The law would allow the detectives to make visual and sound recordings of potential fraudsters, both in public places as well as in some observable private areas (an apartment balcony, for example).

Controversially, the use of GPS technology – if authorised by a judge – could also be used to track suspects. The prospect of drones being used for geolocalisation (rather than observation) has also been raised.

The issue caused consternation among some sectors of the public when it hit headlines in March, and a grassroots opposition movement – led by, among others, author Sibylle Berg and student Dimitri Rougy – quickly organised itself to launch a counter-campaign.

The activists operated independently and relied purely on public support and donations; however, the Greens and Socialist Party have since voiced their support for the referendum.

SDA-ATS/dos

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