Has Switzerland Become A Center Of Spy Technology Exports?

By EDRi · October 9, 2013

On 26 September 2013, Privacy International sent a letter to Ueli Maurer, Head of the Swiss Federal Department of Defence showing concern regarding the many companies asking for licenses to export surveillance technology from Switzerland.

Some media reports revealed in August 2013 that companies such as Gamma International (well known for the notorious malware soft FinFisher), are seeking licenses to export their technologies from Switzerland.

This has led to a quick reaction from Privacy International which wrote to more than 70 Swiss lawmakers, drawing attention to the issue.

The letter “detailed the human rights and foreign policies that Switzerland has championed internationally, including ensuring that businesses operating in Switzerland should exercise a duty of care in their global activities, and support for international standards in building social responsibility into their market-orientated activities. Gamma International clearly does not meet these standards.”

Councillor Balthasar Glättli form the Swiss Green Party (GPS) has placed a Motion in the Parliament for a debate that would lead to calling on the Swiss Government to set clear rules to prevent export from Switzerland of technologies that could be used for the surveillance and repression of dissidents.

In the letter sent to the Head of the Department for Defence, Ueli Maurer, who is also currently President of Switzerland for 2013 as well as to Didier Burkhalter, the current Swiss Foreign Minister and Vice-President of Switzerland, Privacy International expresses concerns that by approving such technologies for export, Switzerland’s reputation of neutrality and the capacity to engage in conflict zones would be severely damaged.

It seems that the decision factors in this matter are the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports (DDPS).

One of the issues is that there is no way of finding out what companies have tried to export malicious software to authoritarian regimes or whether they have been successful in their attempts, as SECO has no transparent list of export licenses for goods considered “material for war” and such a list does not include malware anyway.

Therefore, in their letter, Privacy International has asked several questions regarding the export licenses related to surveillance technology that have been required, approved and denied by SECO and whether such requests have been rejected based on human rights issues.

After Gamma revelations, Switzerland begins to debate export of surveillance tech (4.10.2013)…

Privacy International letter to Ueli Maurer, Head of Federal Department of Defence (26.09.2013)…