Post and Telecommunications Surveillance Service

The PTSS: an overview

The federal and cantonal law enforcement authorities are able to order measures to monitor postal and telecommunications activity when investigating serious crime. Since 1 January 1998, the PTSS has been responsible for implementing such measures, ensuring that the applicable legislation is observed. The authorities make a request for data to the PTSS, which obtains the data from the TSPs; this is then passed on to investigators for analysis.  

Neither crime nor modern telecommunications take account of geographical boundaries, so international cooperation plays an essential role in the fight against crime. The PTSS works to promote international standardisation and the exchange of knowledge and information with our counterparts abroad.

The PTSS is responsible for ensuring the implementation of post and telecommunications surveillance measures. It acts independently and autonomously, and is not subject to directives. It is affiliated for administrative purposes to the IT Service Centre of the Federal Department of Justice and Police (ISC-FDJP). The revised Federal Act on the Surveillance of Post and Telecommunications (SPTA) and the associated implementation ordinances gave the service a clear, up-to-date legal framework. It is now organised into four units.

Legal Affairs and Controlling

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is one of the most innovative sectors in the economy. It regularly introduces new standards, launching new services for increasingly powerful end-user devices. This has consequences for telecommunications surveillance; the technical interface between the PTSS’s processing system and the several hundred TSPs needs to be constantly adapted.

The IT specialists and their colleagues in the Legal Affairs and Controlling division ensure that, even in a highly dynamic technological environment, it is always possible to conduct telecommunications surveillance. The division is responsible for planning and managing all IT projects critical to the PTSS’s mandate.

In addition to its responsibility for IT projects, the team of 16 draws up the legal framework necessary to ensure that surveillance is correctly conducted. This safeguards the public’s right to privacy and is a key requirement in ensuring the legal usability of the data gathered. 

This largely involves adapting ordinances to reflect the latest technological changes. For example, the team revises the departmental ordinance on conducting surveillance in post and telecommunication services (VD-ÜPF) each year and amends it if necessary.

The Legal Affairs and Controlling division also deals with financial management, reporting and public relations. The staff answer scores of questions from the media each year and are available to respond to queries from the general public.

Provider Management

The 21 staff of the Provider Management division are responsible for creating and keeping up to date the technical specifications that the TSPs are required to observe when providing data to the PTSS. 

They are also responsible for the compliance procedure, in which the PTSS establishes whether the TSPs are able to monitor their telecommunication services and provide information and data as required. Under the SPTA, TSPs must at all times be able to monitor the services they offer and to provide the associated data and information, unless they are legally exempted from the obligation to do so.

The Provider Management division’s Special Case Team develops Tailor-made solutions for TSPs that are not themselves able to implement surveillance measures or that are not legally required to do so. The team is also involved when, for example, a small provider such as a local cable network or hotel is required to conduct surveillance activities. 

The staff also advise providers on technical and legal matters, and issue corresponding orders and decisions within the scope of their supervisory authority.

A team of four is responsible for ensuring the smooth functioning of the applications of the data processing system from which the data is extracted. 

Furthermore, the Provider Management experts help to develop new applications and are active on a number of national and international standardisation committees, for example for the development and implementation of interface specifications for 4G/5G networks. 

Surveillance Management

The 18 members of the Surveillance Management division handle the PTSS’s interaction with law enforcement services and the Federal Intelligence Service (FIS). The team advises the police forces and public prosecution services in all legal, technical, organisational and administrative matters relating to postal and telecommunications surveillance.

The staff deal with the surveillance orders, which they check for completeness before passing them on to the TSPs. The team also ensures that law enforcement services receive the data the TSPs subsequently deliver. Surveillance management also includes drawing up invoices for the law enforcement services and the FIS, and making payments to the TSPs.

Along with the IT operator, the team is responsible for incident and problem management regarding detected or suspected IT errors. It is involved in the development of new applications and provides internal and external first- and second-level support. 

The Surveillance Management team also runs training sessions for law enforcement services and the FIS. Outside office hours, it provides a duty service with the technical support of the Provider Management division. This means the PTSS is available round the clock.

Administrative Criminal Proceedings

For further information about the division Administrative Criminal Proceedings go to this page.


Last updated: 17.06.2020 - 10:03