19:29 GMT20 January 2021
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    Despite global fears of the planet turning into an Orwellian dystopia, the use of wiretapping by law enforcement authorities in Sweden is actually on the decline. Recent analysis suggests that the value and the usefulness of such interception is dropping.

    In 2016, a total of 3,456 licenses for the clandestine interception of electronic communications were granted in Sweden, which is nine fewer than the year before. Whereas the drop may not be impressive as such, the prosecutor's office sees a significant reduction of the actual benefit of wiretapping criminals in order to obtain evidence to be presented in court, Swedish Radio reported.

    According to Hans Harding of the Prosecutor's Office, this is mainly due to the fact that criminals today are increasingly communicating with each other via regular telephone calls. To avoid being detected, they use various mobile phone applications, such as Signal, Wire, FaceTime, Instagram, etc., where the information is encrypted and almost impossible to intercept.

    "There are numbers that indicate that 90 percent of such communication cannot be intercepted because of the encryption," Hans Harding said.

    This leads to police resorting to other methods, like bugging rooms or monitoring other electronic communications, such as emails or SMS. The Prosecutor's Office is striving to figure out a legal way to intercept encrypted messages after a government investigation into this matter to be presented later this year. Regardless of the outcome, this won't solve the police's problems, as many people specifically choose encryption, such as journalists and their sources.

    "Just take journalists as an example, there are rules already in place that prohibit us from listening to such conversations," Hans Harding said.

    Earlier this year, Swedish Radio reported that today's criminals do their best not to leave any digital traces of their activities. During contact, they either meet in person or communicate through special apps that the police cannot intercept. They also pay in cash to avoid being tracked down, which hampers the police's work to collect evidence.

    "In recent times, we have seen many criminals log off social media. They are quitting Facebook and the like in order to leave as few digital tracks as possible," Stockholm investigator Jan Flygar told Swedish Radio.

    According to Jan Flygar, the criminals are constantly adapting to the police's investigation methods to avoid being caught next time.

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    Tags:
    crime, surveillance, wiretapping, Scandinavia, Sweden
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