Minister discusses legal spyware in Germany

The use of government-sponsored internet spyware and the treatment of asylum cases were among topics discussed at a ministerial meeting in Berlin on Monday.

This content was published on October 31, 2011 - 20:26

Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga told journalists after her meeting with German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich that the Swiss government would shortly be examining the issue of using a Trojan to monitor suspected criminals.

Sommaruga said that she and Friedrich had agreed that the legal safeguards would have to be set “very high”.

She did not rule out cooperation with Germany over the development of the relevant software, but said this had not been discussed in concrete terms.

Germany already has a government-sponsored “lawful interception” programme designed to monitor Skype phone calls, as part of legal wiretaps. However, critics say it is able to do much more than is legally permitted, and is also a security threat because it contains a number of loopholes.

Earlier in October the Swiss authorities confessed to using spy software of the German type. A justice ministry spokesman said the law enforcement authorities and those in canton Zurich had used the software in individual cases for the clarification of serious crimes.

Voice and text messages were intercepted, but computers were not accessed, he asserted.

On another issue discussed by the two ministers, Sommaruga said that Switzerland and Germany have agreed to try to speed up the resolution of asylum cases arising under the European Union’s so-called Dublin agreement, to which Switzerland is also a signatory.

Under this agreement, asylum seekers must make their application in the country of the Dublin area they first arrive. They cannot move on to the country of their choice and apply for asylum status there.

She said experts were to be charged with working out measures leading to more efficient handling of such cases arising between Switzerland and Germany. The aim was to keep the procedure fair, but to speed it up so that a decision could be reached in a maximum of ten days, she explained.

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