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Swedish police could be allowed to use spyware

Updated torsdag 12 maj 2016 kl 12.12
Published torsdag 12 maj 2016 kl 10.10
Ygeman: It is a very big violation of privacy
(1:32 min)
Monitoring of encrypted communications could become legal in Sweden. Photo: Thomas Winje Øijord/Scanpix Norge/TT
Monitoring of encrypted communications could become legal in Sweden. Photo: Thomas Winje Øijord/Scanpix Norge/TT

The Swedish government will launch an inquiry today into whether the police should be allowed to use spyware for fighting terrorism.

The Swedish government launched an inquiry today into whether the police should be allowed to use spyware for fighting terrorism.

According to the Minister for Home Affairs Anders Ygeman spyware could prove an efficient tool for fighting serious crime.

“The police and the security police need to be up-to-date with the technical development and should be able to also monitor encrypted information,” Ygeman told Swedish Radio News.

In December, the red-green government and the centre-right Alliance parties agreed on a number of measures for fighting terrorism. One of the issues discussed was monitoring encrypted communications. The inquiry launched today will investigate whether the Swedish law should be changed so that crime-fighting authorities will have the right to monitor digital communications in real time. That could be done for instance through planting so-called Trojans into terror suspects’ computers.

The police already have the possibility of monitoring electronic communication between two parties over telephones and online, provided that it concerns a person suspected of a crime that would lead to a two-year minimum prison sentence, and that the surveillance is approved by a court of law. The problem with this type of monitoring is that it is becoming less useful as heavy encryption is available to the public. The purpose of real-time monitoring is to access the information before it is encrypted.

Real-time digital communications monitoring would entail a major breach of privacy, and one of those who raised concerns on the matter today was Linda Snecker, Left Party spokesperson on legal affairs.

“The intrusion into people’s private lives will be very, very big. There’s an obvious risk that innocent people will have their entire lives mapped out by the police, and the Left Party does not think that is right,” Snecker said.

But Ygeman emphasised that the integrity issue will be taken seriously.

“It’s a very big breach of privacy. As such, I think it’s reasonable for it to be tried in a court of law before it can be used and that we’re completely open about the extent to which this is taking place and in what way it is taking place,” Ygeman said.

The inquiry is expected to be completed by November 2017.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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