In two days, Wednesday, is it assumed that the riksdag (The Swedish instrument of government) will give the surveillance service the right to scan all email, sms (phone texts) and phone traffic that pass through the borders of Sweden.
Christoph Andersson is reminded by the surveillance machine in the past DDR - and wonder where the personal privacy is going.
IN THE EASTGERMAN SECURITY POLICE archives exists shelves with fire-yellow red or dark brown files. The combined length is 180 kilometers. Here exists printouts of common east german's phone calls and long lists of different people's phone contacts, right next to a date and time. Especially interesting to the Stasi was the phone traffic that passed abroad the boarders of East Germany.
This gigantic security surveillance system had the task of protecting "the democracy" within DDR against "hostile negative forces" and "terrorism". The threat picture gave the Stasi the right to collect all information about everyone.
Since 1989 the Stasi is but a memory. Despite this is a similar, but even worse surveillance system in the making - this time in Sweden. To accomplish this FÃrsvarets RadioAnstalt (Swedish Defence's Radio Department), the FRA, aquired a super computer, worth multiple millions kronor (SEK - the Swedish currency). It's expected to be more of them in the forthcoming years.
With the help of those machines the FRA will scan through all emails, all sms's and all phone calls that pass through the borders of Sweden. Every day, every hour, every minute and every second. Just like in the prior DDR is the goal to prevent "terrorism" and deflect outer threats against society.
In practice this is done by the FRA by feeding different search terms into the computer system, both in Swedish and other languages. In addition the FRA will search for strings with randomly chosen words and numbers.
- Cryptography, explains the defense minister's closest man, the secretary of
state HÃ¥kan Jevrell in a video interview shown in the "Digging journalists' seminary" in GÃteborg (Gothenburgh) in April.
In this interview he makes it understood that email with encrypted contents is especially interesting to the FRA. To-be terrorists would not type in plain text where they will hit - and with amount of force.
Sure, encryption systems like PGP is believed to be hard to crack - but with one or more computers in the million-range you can surely decrypt everything from encrypted love letters to journalists' exchange with sources. The latter being protected by the anonymity protection of Swedish law. FRA can thus impossibly know anything about the contents prior to breaking the encryption. Thus creating a catch 22. In practice the law's paragraphs about the source protection are rendered worthless.
Everything needed for the FRA to begin the work is for the Riksdag to pass the suggestion "An assimilated defense secret service". Behind the gibberish title hides a privacy breach that has no equal in Swedish history. The FRA will not just look for information about believed terrorist cells or acts of terrorism. According to the proposition the FRA will even search for information about "Income crisis, ecologic unbalances, environmental threats, ethnic and religious conflicts, large immigrant and emigrant movements and economic challenges in the form of currency and interest speculations". The thoughts are involuntarily drawn towards the Stasi surveillance machine of old.
HÃ¥kan Jevrell and other right-wing politicians ensures at the same time that the common person have nothing to fear. It's only traffic that passes the border that will be scanned, not domestic sms, phone and email traffic. The problem is that domestic email also is delivered through other countries. Partly because Swedish companies and organizations have servers in other countries, partly because email doesn't honor nation borders. The mail between, for example, LuleÃ¥ and MalmÃ, may very well pass through the United States - if there is free capacity there.
Correspondence between Swedish citizens should immediately be destroyed if it gets stuck in the net of the FRA, says the rules. The problem is that the FRA will have no ability to decide who is a Swedish or foreign citizen.
Other uncertainties in the proposition is about journalists correspondence with their sources. The law suggestion says that even this information should be destroyed, if caught by the FRA. But the question is who will control that the offending material actually is removed. Also if it is possible to destroy the information in the memory of the FRA employees. Their knowledge about the contents still exist - even if the email or the taped phone call is destroyed.
In short: Eventually the information could end up at the SÃpo (The Swedish Security Police) or other parts of the government.
Of course Sweden has to protect itself against terror threats and serious crimes.
But it is unacceptable that in the name of fighting terrorism tap everyone sending email, sms or make a phonecall. This without neither suspicioun of crime, nor order of court.
Ironically those law changes are expected to go into action in 2009. The same year as Germany celebrate the 20-year anniversary memory of DDR's and the Stasi's downfall the mass-surveillance is resurrected. But this time directed by Sweden.