Telecommunications Surveillance Statistics: Stable Figures in 2018

In 2018, the Swiss prosecution authorities and the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) ordered roughly the same number of surveillance measures from the Post and Telecommunications Surveillance Service (PTSS) as the previous year. According to the figures and a comparison with the total number of offences committed, telecommunications surveillance is used in about 1.5% of all offences. The ratio is highest for felonies and misdemeanours constituting a public danger, felonies and misdemeanours against the administration of justice, and drug trafficking. For the first time, all the figures are presented in dynamic statistics, published on the PTSS website.

This year, the PTSS introduced a new method for counting statistical data as the previous method had resulted in certain measures being counted twice. Therefore, the figures obtained using the previous counting method are shown here first, followed in brackets by those obtained using the new counting method (only for 2018). This allows a comparison of recent years. However, all future statistics published will be based on the new counting method (for more information on the new counting method, please refer to the infobox).

*) New counting method

The number of real-time surveillance measures (listening in on telephone conversations or reading of email messages) and the number of retroactive surveillance measures (telephone records, who called whom, when and for how long etc.) remained stable. In 2018, 2,554 (new counting method: 1,676) real-time surveillance operations were carried out, compared with 2,512 the previous year, and 5,396 (5,225) retroactive surveillance measures were ordered, compared with 5,438 the previous year. Thus, the overall number of surveillance measures remained stable at 7,950. Emergency searches for missing persons rose around 5% to 651 compared to 618 the previous year. A search for escaped prisoners was carried out six times, a measure that has existed since the new law was introduced.

Offences against property, drug trafficking and violent crime

If one compares the number of telecommunications surveillance orders and the total number of offences committed according to police crime statistics (2018: 547,467), one can see that the prosecution authorities ordered telecommunications surveillance for about 1.5% of offences. Felonies and misdemeanours constituting a public danger accounted for the highest share (7.9%), followed by felonies and misdemeanours against the administration of justice (6.4%) and breaches of the penal provisions of the Narcotics Law (3.6%).

IMSI catchers and govware

In 2018, no operations conducted using special computer software (govware) were recorded. Special technical devices (IMSI catchers) was employed 84 times. These tools have been available to the prosecution authorities since the new Federal Act on the Surveillance of Post and Telecommunications Surveillance (BÜPF/APTS) came into force on 1 March 2018. The PTSS lists these measures in its statistics. However, it is the prosecution authorities that are responsible for their implementation.

FIS surveillance

Since 2017, the statistics have also provided information on the surveillance activities of the Federal Intelligence Service (FIS). In 2018—the first full year of statistics—the FIS ordered a total of 422 (388) surveillance measures compared to 89 the previous year. It should be noted that the FIS and the PTSS use different counting methods (see infobox).

Fees and compensation

The prosecution authorities and the FIS paid a total of CHF 12,063,085 in fees in 2018. Entities obliged to cooperate were paid CHF 6,515,165. The difference—used to finance the PTSS—increased by CHF 1.5 million to around CHF 5.5 million compared with last year. The cost recovery ratio has thus risen slightly from 45% to a good 49%.

Last modification 21.05.2019

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