Belgian Internet users under surveillance

By EDRi · August 21, 2004

According to a press article published on 15 April 2004 in the Belgian daily boulevard paper ‘La Dernière Heure’, the Ministry of the Interior in Belgium will test new telecom interception hardware and software on the fiberlink used by ADSL broadband users in Belgium. The test will be done by the CTIF (under the federal control of the ministry of interior) during a non determined period (starting Sunday 25 April) on the fiberlink in Brussels. The main purpose seems to test the viability of the technical solution.

This kind of wiretapping is quite different from regular phone (or internet) interception. Those wiretaps require identifying a specific caller line or identity. The Belgian ‘black box’ will monitor all the traffic transmitted on the fiberlink. If we take the analogy of ‘classical’ phone interception, it’s like monitoring all the in/out phone traffic of an entire city in the hope to find a specific call.

The ‘black box’ is a proprietary hardware and software solution called ‘NiceTrack’, manufactured in Israel by a company called NICE Systems. The solution seems somewhat similar to the FBI Internet Monitoring system called ‘Carnivore’. Nor the ministry nor Belgacom (the national operator for the ADSL link) wish to make any comment on the subject but the federal police has made an official statement that the test regards only an internal police line.

EDRI-member AEL (Association Electronic Libre) is organising a campaign in order to inform internet users how to protect their privacy during the next few weeks. They don’t only promote the use of technical internet tools but aim to increase awareness of general good practises to protect online privacy. AEL also invited the Belgian Data Protection Authority to make an official statement on the subject. The ‘Ligue des Droits de l’Homme’ (Human Rights League) also expressed serious concerns and reminds the police that global interception is illegal under the criminal code law and serious evidence must be shown before doing any interception.

‘Un mouchard sur le réseau ADSL de Belgacom’ (15.04.2004)

Statement Federal Police (in French – 16.04.2004)

Nicetrack product information

AEL information and campaign

(Contribution by Alexandre Dulaunoy, AEL Belgium)