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Swedes call on Human Rights Court to review snoop law

Angry boffins attempt to bork legislation

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A Swedish organisation headed by lawyers and university professors has lodged a complaint this week with the European Court of Human Rights over Sweden’s controversial new snoop law.

Last month, the Swedish parliament approved a law that will grant Sweden's intelligence agency National Defence Radio Establishment sweeping powers to eavesdrop on all international phone calls and emails in a move to combat terror plots.

The independent Centrum för Rättvisa (CFR) or Justice Center believes the bill violates the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees citizens the right to privacy and the ability to hold authorities to account. "There is a massive public interest in resolving the issue of whether the FRA Act is compatible with the demands of the European Convention. The Act basically means that everyone, not only Swedish citizens, risks having their electronic communication monitored by the Swedish state," Clarence Crafoord, Chief legal counsel at CFR, said in a statement.

CFR believes the law remains unclear about way the information will be gathered, monitored, used, shared and stored. The scope of the FRA Act is not of sufficient clarity, "as the purposes for monitoring (can) range from international terrorism to ecological imbalances and interest rate and currency speculation. For an individual, it is impossible to foresee its consequences." All that matters is that the communication crosses the Swedish border, CFR says. "Essentially, this Act endorses secret mass surveillance which affects millions of people all over the world."

Sweden’s vote on the law last month angered many in Sweden and abroad, including former members of SÄPO (the Swedish FBI) and the Justice Department and the European Federation of Journalists. Political representatives have received more than six million protest emails since the law was passed in mid-June. Opposition leader Mona Sahlin has promised that a next government will most certainly "tear up the law".

Denmark, Finland and Norway last week also voiced concerns about the new law in Sweden. Danish citizens' rights group TI-Politisk Forening demanded "an end to the Swedes' surveillance of the world's internet traffic". In Norway, the national telecom agency said it will look into the new law.

Finnish-Swedish telecoms operator TeliaSonera has already moved its servers from Sweden to Finland and Google is considering a similar move, according to a letter published by the heads of eight leading mobile phone service providers in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

Google's global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer had already condemned the new law. In the past Google was forced to censor its search services in China in order to gain greater access to China's fast-growing market and is keen to avoid a repeat.

Russian telecom operators have drawn up plans to re-route data and call traffic to avoid Swedish eavesdropping, according to Swedish news site The Local. Many protesters believe the real reason for the law is so Swedish intelligence can monitor data traffic to and from Russia. ®

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