By Heini Järvinen

The Swiss civil society group Digital Society Switzerland is working on building opposition to the practice of the “data retention” – the requirement for telecommunications companies to store for six months meta-data (such as information on who emailed or called whom, and where the telephones were located) and to make it available for law enforcement purposes upon demand – with the goal that this practice will ultimately be ended.

The most recent action has been the publication of a visualisation of six months worth of “data retention” data for one of the members of the Swiss national parliament – with his permission of course. Balthasar Glättli chairs the parliamentary group of the Green Party, and he uses electronic communications quite actively. The visualised data about his communications consequently yield a quite detailed picture about his movements and in fact about his entire life, especially when – as shown in the visualisation – the “data retention” data is combined with publicly available data such as information that was posted on Twitter or Facebook.

This illustrates the seriousness of the invasion of privacy that is caused by the law which requires, by means of this “data retention”, a significant degree of surveillance of the whole population, regardless of any prior suspicion.

The visualisation has been co-produced by Digital Society Switzerland, OpenDataCity, “Schweiz am Sonntag”, Watson.ch and Arte. It may be freely embedded in any website or media product. Significant inspiration was taken from the pioneering action of Malte Spitz in Germany.

The life of National Councillor Balthasar Glättli under surveillance: Interactive visualisation of data retention in Switzerland
http://digiges.ch/dr/

Data retention in Switzerland
http://apps.opendatacity.de/vds/index_en.html

It’s tracking your every move and you may not even know (26.03.2011)
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/26/business/media/26privacy.html

(Contribution by Norbert Bollow, EDRi observer)