On December 6, 2007 the Austrian national council has given its agreement to an amendment on the “security police law”. The decision is being criticized for its effects as well as for the controversial way it was passed. To get this bill taken back, the newly founded group “sos-überwachung” (sos surveillance) ((sos-überwachung)) has started a petition and an online demonstration.
The novella of the security police bill was brought up on December 6 as an amendment and was passed the same night. It was neither preceded by a conference of the interior committee nor by a hearing of the ministry of justice or the commission for data privacy.
The new law allows the police to
* interrogate position data of mobile phones
* use IMSI-catchers
* force providers to give informations on dynamic IP addresses.
On the effects of this amendment the opponents state (translation):
“An IMSI-catcher is a device for forcing the transmission of the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) and intercepting GSM mobile phone calls.
The GSM specification requires the handset to authenticate to the network, but does NOT require the network to authenticate to the handset. This well-known security hole can be exploited by an IMSI-catcher.
The IMSI-catcher masquerades as a base station and logs the IMSI numbers of all the mobile stations in the area, as they attempt to attach to the IMSI-catcher. It allows forcing the mobile phone connected to it to use no call encryption (i.e., it is forced into A5/0 mode), making the call data easy to intercept and convert to audio.
Using IMSI-catchers means to dodge the providers. The first control falls.
The new law does no longer require a judicial decision to use IMSI-catchers. The second control falls.
The surveillance of talks is still illegal, but it is no longer possible to control this. The door to abuse is wide open.
The data privacy commission has stated that there is no legal basis for a intervention on IP addresses by the police, because these are no core data, but inventory data. Instead of clearing this situation, the new law allows the police to interrogate IP addresses – without judicial control and without the police having to give reasons for the measure.
The minister of the interior will appoint a legal protection commissioner who shall take place for the judge as control. For three reasons, he is not able to: He only has the right to inform. He has no veto against any measures. He cannot obtain any sanctions in case of abuse of the police’s powers. the minister replaces effective judicial control with a harmless commissioner.”
The amendment was explained with the need to introduce effective measures to find confused or kidnapped persons. This is already possible using allowed methods.
sos-überwachung is not a private, but a group initiated by the Austrian Greens ((Die Grünen (Austrian Greens / English page))). Beneath an intensive discussion about surveillance, especially of mobile phones and the internet, in the interior committee of the national council the goal is to reach the withdrawal of all surveillance measures which do not require judicial control. Therefore, the motto reads
“When one-sided security politics endanger freedom it is time to protect the freedom from the security politics.”
What can I do?
First you may sign the petition which intends to get the amendment back into the national council.
You can register as a potential participant in upcoming protests to stay tuned.
Supporters have designed an online demo after the example given by German Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung, you may find it here.