The Swiss prosecution authorities and the Federal intelligence service (FIS) may order post and telecommunications surveillance measures for the purpose of investigating serious criminal offences based on the Swiss Criminal Procedure Code and the Federal Intelligence Service Act.

According to the figures and a comparison with the total number of offences committed (2019: 544,781), telecommunications surveillance is used in about 1.5% of all offences.

The overall number of surveillance measures ordered has steadily increased in 2019 to a total of 8,666 (7,558 the previous year). The increase of retroactive surveillance measures is due to the increase of Antenna search measures and to technical reasons. The new Warrant Management Component (WMC) was introduced on March 23, 2019 with which antenna searches now can be statistically recorded and reported in greater detail.

In 2019, approximately 40% of these surveillance measures were ordered by prosecution authorities or the FIS for the purpose of investigating serious offences against property; 26% concerned serious offences against the Narcotics Act, and 10% for offences against life and limb. The remainder related to other types of offences, including felonies and crimes against liberty and offences against sexual integrity.

The Articles 269bis and 269ter of the Swiss Criminal Procedure Code allow the use of special technical devices (IMSI catchers) and computer software (govware) for telecommunications surveillance. 
In 2019, 12 operations used this special computer software. The number of operations using special technical devices (IMSI-Catcher) amounts to 103 compared to 84 in the previous year.

Note: In connection with the revision of the Federal Act on Post and Telecommunications Surveillance (BÜPF/APTS), the Post and Telecommunications Surveillance Service (PTSS) introduced a more detailed method for counting statistical data (for more information on the new counting method, please refer to this press release). For this reason, a comparison of recent years is only possible to a certain extent. Furthermore the numbers presented by FIS and those by the PTSS are not comparable due to a different counting method.

See the detailed statistics* 2011-2019 under Publications.

Orders year-on-year rate

Overview Orders Switzerland, Confederation, Cantons or Liechtenstein

The cantons of Vaud (25%), Zurich (13%) and Geneva (13%) ordered the most surveillance measures in 2019.

Orders by entity

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Real-time monitoring
Real-time surveillance is the simultaneous, slightly delayed or periodic transmission of post or telecommunications data, for example telephone or email monitoring (listening in on telephone conversations or reading of email messages).
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Retroactive monitoring
Retroactive surveillance concerns, in particular, all telephone records (who called whom, when and for how long etc.) relating to the previous six months.
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Information (complex)
Complex information (previously termed "technical/administrative information") provides more detailed information relating to telecommunications connections such as copies of contracts or ID.
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Information (simple)
Simple information can be basic information on subscriber access (telephone directory enquiries) or can provide the authorities with information on questions such as "Which telephone numbers are registered to a particular person?".
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Tracing of persons
The prosecution authorities can track down persons on whom a custodial sentence has been imposed or against whom a measure involving deprivation of liberty has been ordered in a legally binding and enforceable decision.
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Emergency search
As well as for criminal proceedings, telecommunications surveillance measures can be ordered for the purpose of finding and rescuing missing persons such as hikers involved in accidents or missing children.
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Antenna search of 2 hours
An antenna search comprises call records of all communications, communication attempts and network accesses that have occurred at a specific location and that have taken place via a specific mobile radio cell during a specific period.
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*Statistical results that have been published, made available, or processed from data from statistical bodies of the PTSS may be used or reproduced without copyright authorisation provided reference is made to their source.

Last updated: 16.06.2020 - 13:56