Internet & Police?

Law enforcement has an important job in society. They look after the rules. The rules change often as the environment changes often. What was forbidden yesterday is allowed today and what was allowed today is forbidden tomorrow. As such law enforcement agencies have to keep up with the rules and the environment. Identify new hot areas and give up old areas which are no longer a problem.

I did however notice recently that lots of law enforcement agencies forget what their purpose is.  And some of them straightforward ignore the laws.  Here is an example:

Being an ISP ( and hosting company ( I have customers who use my infrastructure. And customers have customers who themselves have customers. Now it is natural that in such a scenario, you can end up with one "bad guy" doing something he is not allowed to. This can be a spammer, a criminal hacker, someone doing identity theft or even a murderer. There are many things people do on this world and thats why we have rules (also known as laws). If such a "bad" guy now get's looked at because he has apparently done something bad, we have the police looking into the matter. Now because we have the internet, the lazy version of the police (I'm not pinpointing to anyone specific here) thinks, hey the internet can tell us who this was and what he has done. Let's ask the internet provider who this IP belongs to and lets listen to the communication. And while we are at it, lets locate him and track all his movements, his facebook mails and which porn he watches etc. Why? Because it's so easy. Well, no its not. Laws in my country (Switzerland) specifically forbid a telecom operator to give out any information about any communication which might have occured to anyone. Its as forbidden as if your postman would open your letters to read them. 

The law foresees some exceptions though. And those are if it is a very serious crime (such as murder) _and_ there is no other way to get the information needed. And in 99% of the cases  there are other ways.

The reason for those restrictions in the law are obvious. If something like wiretapping someone has become so easy these days, this opens up all kinds of wishes. A policemman might want to listen to his potentially cheating wife's phone calls. Just because he sits in a powerful position where he actually can do it. This is abuse of power. Thats why there is always a judge who has to look at the case and take a decision to allow or disallow such surveillance. And this is a showstopper for all kinds of abuse of power. The splitting of powers is one of the most important things in a democracy.

Some countries have forgotton that and think the president should have more power so he can protect the country better. I can not imagine living in a country where anyone could get killed by a governmental order and even without due diligence. This is worse than the death penalty. It open's doors to abuse. And it will be abused more and more. I predict a revolution for that country in the next 20-3 years.

Anyway, coming back to the law enforcement agencies, specifically the police. In civilized european countries you would expect that police follows the laws in a stringent way. But lately I experience more and more that the police in europe is understaffed and getting lazy or being abused by political powers. So instead of investigating cases in detail, the power of wiretapping telecommunication is being abused instead as it's so easy to do. And telecom operators are helping them in many cases without even thinking that they break the law themselves.

I recently got contacted by a police of a foreign nation about an IP address in my range saying they investigate a crime which was done from that IP (like it was used to sign up somewhere or the like). But instead of using the normal method to go to a judge to get a judgment order and then use interpol or bilateral channels to get the information out of the country where the IP is located, they simply used "whois" to find out the ISP (in that case me) and send a fax. Well, even if I wish to help them to identify the criminal, I'm not allowed to. I need by law a judgment order. And this is the case in my country, in their country and in the country where the IP is stationed. Secondly, the request was done in such a sloppy way that not even the company name was correct on the fax. Instead the network name was used which is in the whois record (which is a very old name not representing anything anymore out of the current network). Thirdly, by looking at the reverse DNS name of the IP they could have figured out in a second that this is a useless request.

What upsets me most here is not the fact that they are lazy or sloppy or have no clue about how to use the internet resources database (you find in every part of society people who are lazy or dumb so that's no excuse). What upsets me most is the fact that they try to push me to break the law to give them that information even though its forbidden for a telecom operator to give out such information without a judge's request. And they most probably know that very well! But I see this happening more and more. It's up to the telecom providers to stand up and refuse such requests and use their brains before blindly answering such request.

I can only say: There is a good reason why splitting powers is one of the most important pillars of a good democracy.

©2021 Andreas Fink