Email and telephone surveillance rises in 2013

Somebody may be listening in on suspects' telephone conversations and monitoring their email traffic Keystone

The number of cases in which Swiss law enforcement authorities surveyed suspects’ telephone and email conversations as part of a criminal investigation has risen to the highest number since records began in 1998.

This content was published on February 27, 2014 - 15:00

Real-time monitoring by the Post and Telecommunications Surveillance Service, which involves listening in on telephone conversations and reading email correspondence, increased 22% to 3,945 instances in 2013, the justice ministry said on Thursday.

About a third of surveillance measures were used to investigate violations of the narcotics act and offences against property. The remainder was for other offences including violent and sexual crimes.

Prosecutors also asked for 6% less information, statistics show. The number of emergency requests for data needed to search for and rescue missing persons increased 19% to 503 in 2013, the ministry said.

The authorities requested more detailed technical information on telephone connections and subscriber identification, which rose 8% to 5,155 cases last year.

Each request for surveillance must be evaluated and approved by the responsible cantonal or federal judge. Authorities do not need the approval of a judge to request basic information such as finding out which telephone numbers are registered to a particular individual.

The authorities only consider surveillance necessary in a fraction of offences, the ministry stressed. And it pointed out that for each crime considered serious enough there may be more than one surveillance order for each type of mobile, fixed-line or internet connection.


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