SPTA: How a Referendum Will Make the Swiss ICT Industry Stronger

Isabella Mysicka Apr 19, 2016

On 18 March 2016, the new Federal Act on the Surveillance of Postal and Telecommunications Traffic (SPTA) was passed and published. The SPTA regulates the state’s means of monitoring telecommunications traffic.

This affects all telecommunications providers, including traditional telephony, VoIP, e-mail, chat services and even WLAN operators in the private and public sector.

The reason why the new SPTA has been the cause of some heated discussion, however, is not due to the scope of its reach. Rather, it is because Swiss ICT providers in particular are losing out to foreign providers: the SPTA places requirements on all Swiss ICT providers, but not on providers offering their services in Switzerland but are not actually based in Switzerland. In reality, communications already take place on various channels and on a highly global scale. Who hasn’t used Skype, WhatsApp or perhaps Snapchat? These providers are not subject to the provisions set out in the SPTA.

Furthermore, the law requires readiness to permit monitoring at any time and without remuneration, thereby requiring investments to be made by Swiss ICT providers and in turn making Switzerland even more expensive. In addition, Swiss providers are also required to be capable of suspending encryption mechanisms at any time. This begs the question as to whether this is really in the spirit of providing secure, confidential communications.

Signatures are currently being gathered for the referendum, and we recommend supporting this campaign. The referendum runs through July 07th 2016.

Philipp Koch is co-founder and CEO of nine.ch.