Have you ever read about anti-tapping apps anywhere?
If the answer is yes, you have to know that these anti-tapping apps work in a much more efficient way when we talk about apps whose managing company has its legal headquarters in Switzerland, instead of another European country.
We know that the tappings matter is delicate, because, in order to discipline from the beginning the previously mentioned, the legislator need to balance two fundamental interests for the state governed by the rule of law, such as the privacy right and the needs to proceed with potential investigations, which may concern communications between the subjects.
In what consist, therefore, the anti-tapping apps, how do they get inserted in this context, and what is the reason why the decryption works in a different way in Switzerland, compared to countries like Italy, France or Germany?
When we talk about anti-tapping apps, we mean to refer to that typology of apps that, through a coding system, protects the conversations and the communications exchange among their users from external interferences and potential tappings.
An example of a similar anti-tapping software and of apps for intercepting calls and communications is constituted by apps like Crypty Talk Signal Wire and Threema.
Crypty Talk, actually, is particularly loved by the ones who want to keep they’re conversations away from the tappings, because its servers are situated in Switzerland, which has laws, related to the privacy, much stricter and less permissive, compared to other UEs countries, permitting to have more confidentiality about the identity of its users.
But, what do we mean by saying that Switzerland has laws about privacy stricter than the rest of the UE?
To understand it better, it could be useful a comparison, which dates back to the last month, between the behavior of the Swiss regulations and the ones of the German Confederation, that’s similar to the regulations in Italy.
The situation in Switzerland
For what concerns the current situation in Switzerland, there are some news saying that the Swiss Confederation doesn’t want to force WhatsApp and other instant messenger services providers to make their data accessible for the legal authorities.
To make this decision was the Federal Swiss Council: in response to the interpellation of the Councillor of States Josef Dittli, he declared that he doesn’t want to ban, so basically to permit, an end-to-end encryption system.
To support his statement, the senator has sustained that the opinion and the position of the German Interior Minister, which was instead the supporter of the theory about permitting the legal and security authorities to access to chats, communications and calls encrypted with the classic end-to-end encryption standard system.
In this way, by order of the judge, the messenger services like WhatsApp, Threema and Telegram would be obliged to register and preserve their user’s communications and to send them to the legal authority that requests it, and in a non-encrypted form.
It is well-known that the end-to-end encryption is one of the best and more reliable tools to protect digital communications from potential tappings.
This blocks criminals, but also the police and the secret services, from decoding and tapping the communications among people.
The Helvetic Confederation has justified his decision believing that the systems available to the authorities are already enough for the criminal prosecution, so as not to consider necessary forcing the instant messenger services providers to give them access to the data and the communications of the users, exchanged on their own platform.
An example of alternative investigation methods in the digital and communications fields would be the use of special informatics programs, by which it’s possible to insert a dedicated program on the device who needs to be under control.
This way as well, we couldn’t have access, in a non-encrypted form, to the data of these instant messenger services equipped with the end-to-end encryption.
In addition, there’s also the possibility, through the tools placed at disposal by the forensic informatics, to extract the abovementioned data directly from the devices that were seizured: that’s why, when required by law, the security authorities can have access to the encrypted communications of the apps.
The situation in Germany
On the other hand, there’s Germany, which has, just because of its characteristics, the opposite opinion, due to the fact that the end-to-end encryption system represents a real risk for safety, for them.
Indeed, these social media are very often used as a channel of communication by organised crime, drug dealers and smugglers, spies.
In this way, though, these subjects are not traceable, there’s no possibility to go back to their identity and, consequently, it’s not possible prosecuting them for their crimes either.
That’s why, in Germany, like in Italy, in spite of what concern Switzerland, the data and the communications of the instant messenger apps have been made usable by the legal authority that requests it, due to investigation reasons.
This choice is due to the fact that the German Federal Council has declared itself perfectly aware of the risks and the problems that the encryption technologies represent for the conduct of investigations., and for the right prosecution of the crimes.
That goes to reinforce the internal security system.
Nevertheless, the Federal Council has concluded that the end-to-end encryption system used by the communications apps limits too much the powers and the scope of the investigative and legal authorities.
These ones should have instead full access to certain information in order to monitor and use data as part of its legal tasks.
In this manner, the investigations, the surveillance and the acquisition of evidence are facilitated.
As it’s easy to guess from the comparison between the Swiss system and the Italian and German ones, the matter is complex and delicate.
In conclusion and as we’ve already said, it’s about balancing the privacy protection of the users and the need of guaranteeing the efficient and correct prosecution of crimes, giving to the legal authorities the right tools.
For sure, it’s not wrong to think that, like for the Swiss case, these authorities already have their own tools that suit to the purpose, even notwithstanding the direct access given to the data on the apps.
Anyways, in our opinion, it’s about a very precise choice, that aims to encourage the companies that manage the instant messenger apps to allocate in the Swiss ground their legal headquarters, in order to not have to deal with uncomfortable requests from legal authorities.