Swiss voters approve new surveillance law

Swiss voters on Sept. 25 approved a new surveillance law allowing their national intelligence services broad powers to spy on "terrorist" suspects and cyber criminals, as well as to cooperate with foreign intelligence agencies. While the right to privacy is traditionally considered very important in Switzerland, the new law will allow security agents to tap phones and computer networks. This marks a drastic change from previous surveillance capabilities, under which intelligence agencies relied solely on information from public sources and other authorities. Some left-wing groups have protested, saying the new legislation violates citizens' rights and will undermine Switzerland's neutrality. Amnesty International said the law would lead to "disproportionate" levels of surveillance and was harmful to "freedom of expression." Despite opposition, the new law garnered 65% of the vote.

Yannick Buttet, the Christian Democratic Party vice president, assured that the law is not intended to function in a manner similar to the US National Security Agency (NSA), which has been criticized for setting up a vast data-gathering apparatus. The Swiss defense minister, Guy Parmelin, said Switzerland is "leaving the basement and coming up to the ground floor by international standards" of surveillance.

From Jurist, Sept. 26. Used with permission.