Data Retention by ISPs
Switzerland has some of the most draconian data retention laws in all of Europe. In 2015 the two
of Switzerland passed amendments to existing surveillance laws (known as BÜPF and NDG) that
granted police vast new
snooping powers, which now extend to all forms of communications (inclusive of post, email,
phone, text messages and
IP addresses) and metadata for a period of 12 months.
surveillance laws since 2002 had allowed
government agencies to do some data retention, in particular allowing for the storing of Swiss
people’s emails for
Those opposed to the law even warned that the legislation as written would allow the monitoring
mobile phones and even the installation of trojans on computers, tablets and mobile phones.
Opponents of the law
further accuse the law of monitoring everyone, monitoring too much private information, using
ominous technology to
so and that it violates the basic rights of Swiss citizens, all of which threaten the core
values of the country’s
Criticism of the law in Switzerland is that of data
retention generally: it doesn’t work. It’s been
commented that the Swiss law lacks moderation and has a complete disregard for the
proportionality principle. It
translates roughly to an unadulterated wish list for law enforcement authorities. Concessions
were said to have only
been made where provisions were impossible or unenforceable, whilst there was an almost complete
lack of critical
scrutiny regarding the curtailment of civil liberties and the like.
However, it is perhaps worth noting that
Switzerland does not have a constitutional court and, therefore, there is a very strong chance
that the country’s
controversial data retention laws could be contested in the European Court of Human Rights,
itself a court that has
already ruled that data retention laws are generally contraventions of human rights.
Digital Copyright Laws
Copyright is protected in Switzerland by the Federal Act on Copyright and Related Rights (CopA)
Interestingly, Switzerland has often been criticised for its ‘leniency’ regarding certain
rights. This has extended from what is argued to be its stance on the unauthorized downloading
of multimedia content
and the provision of that content to family members or friends for personal use (which is not
prohibited under Swiss
law, as per Article 19 of the Act), that the parallel trade in IP goods is often allowed, that
copyright exceptions, and that the country has even seriously considered broad mandatory
licensing provisions with
regard to patented research tools. Not really what one
would expect of the
However, Swiss copyright law
does explicitly recognize computer software as ‘literary works’ and the country has established
for the private copying of audio and video works, which then distributes proceeds accordingly.
But the quirks
– for example, public libraries and broadcast libraries are also allowed to sell the works they
possess, which may
contain multimedia content, to their patrons. These libraries are exempt from paying a copyright
fee to the
which has been heavily criticised by the United States and other countries. Furthermore, a Swiss
user can knowingly
purchase or download pirated audiovisual work from a foreign website and still not be prosecuted
since Swiss law can only allow for criminal prosecution within the country.
Freedom of Speech and Censorship
Switzerland is generally accepted as having a high standard of freedom of speech. However,
censorship of the
politically correct ilk does play a role in the country as Switzerland’s anti-racism laws make
it illegal to deny
genocide. Racist or anti-Semitic language or public discourse is also prohibited.
The country’s famous form of
democracy,’ whereby citizens are expected to vote in referenda on laws and government policies
does mean that the
Swiss tend to be actively involved in their socio-political issues and, hence, protection of
Switzerland may opt to reject data retention laws in the future, because such is the flexibility
of its direct
democracy. However, the country seems poised to continue its current trajectory of curtailing
online privacy, even
this contradicts the freedoms for which the country so prides itself on.
Switzerland veers between deprived online privacy and the ardent protection of its democratic
values.. the Swiss need to be more demanding about their right to privacy.
Interested in other countries? See our Comparison of Internet Privacy Laws