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28 Jul, 2008 01:24

Sweden could bug Russia's phones

Russia is worried that a new telecoms law in Sweden may interfere with its telephone traffic. The law allows Stockholm’s intelligence agencies to monitor international phone and internet use to combat terrorism. Four out of five international phone calls

The legislation has divided Swedes. Many say they’re against a measure allowing the authorities to snoop on internet use and eavesdrop on phone calls.

One student told RT he was worried Sweden was turning into a police state: “I can’t believe this is happening, this is not Sweden. This is like Eastern Germany or something like that,” Andreas said.

The draft bill was narrowly approved by parliament last month and allows government agencies to monitor all phone and internet traffic that crosses the country.

Supporters say the measure is neededto protect Sweden against terrorist threats and to improve national security.  But opponents say once implemented, the law will turn the famously liberal country into a ‘Big Brother’ state.

Opposition comes not just from ordinary citizens concerned about their privacy, but from businesses worried about their profits.

Jon Karlung, the CEO at Banhoff, told RT the new law would damage Sweden’s reputation as a country with ‘clean’ telecom services.  “This law will make it harder to attract foreign clients,” he said.

Russian companies in particular have been raising eyebrows. Eighty per cent of Russia’s foreign telecoms traffic is routed through Sweden. Moreover, press rumours suggest the law has been designed to allow Sweden to spy on Russia’s communications. 

But supporters of the bill say Russia has nothing to worry about.

Anna Kinberg Batra from the Moderate Party said the law is aimed is about detecting “any possible extreme threats from the outside world. We are not specifically suspicious of Russia or any other country,” she said.

However, a Stockholm based legal centre has referred it to Strasbourg to be judged on whether it violates the European Convention on Human Rights.