Mass surveillance slammed in French-speaking Switzerland
Authorities in the Swiss canton of Vaud have been heavily criticised for a ‘mass surveillance’ scheme which saw the monitoring of “potentially hundreds of thousands of citizens”.
According to Swiss media reports, half of the total wiretaps made in all of Switzerland were made in the canton of Vaud, despite the French-speaking canton having less than ten percent of the country’s total population.
Swiss broadsheet Le Temps reports that the “massive monitoring of citizens in 2019” was “like deploying a huge net through Lake Geneva to catch only the fish we are looking for”.
Although it is difficult to determine how many phones were tapped, Le Temps reports that it could be in the hundreds of thousands.
The purpose of the wire tapping was to investigate a series of robberies of armoured cash delivery trucks in Vaud.
As reported by The Local in late 2019, the situation became so bad in Vaud that insurers would no longer cover deliveries in the canton.
Le Temps reports that cantonal authorities have defended their actions. The paper reports that while the canton was “watching everyone, but not listening to everyone” who travelled through a specific region in the canton of Vaud.
Vaud prosecutor Eric Cottier told Le Temps the process was legal: “the search by antenna field only provides a listing of raw data.”
“Among these, only those relating to connections (telephone numbers) that may correspond to that of a potential perpetrator are used.
“Investigations concerning the perpetrators are then continued after various cross-checks and sorting carried out by computer.”
“It is absolutely wrong to assert that hundreds of thousands of citizens have been monitored… the other raw data obtained in the process of investigations are not subject to exploitation, surveillance or any other examination.”
Cottier said the surveillance was justified, pointing to a series of arrests made in the Lyon region of France in relation to the armoured truck attacks.
Martin Steiger, lawyer and spokesperson for privacy advocacy group Digital Society, told the Luzerner Zeitung that there was no justification for the mass surveillance.
“This is a form of massive surveillance, which targets innocent people who have no suspicions against them for no reason.”
“Many of those who have been in the sights of the investigators will never know about it".