FECL 13 (March 1993):

MORE SNOOPING WITH THE NEW ANTI-DRUG DATABASE "DOSIS"?

A new electronic database on drug-related information is to be launched in eight Swiss cantons, before the end of Spring. Critics fear that the advanced computer will open the door to further snooping on citizens not suspected of any delict anc contribute to criminalising drug-addicts rather than large scale trafficking.

The decision to set up DOSIS can be traced back to 1988, the year when the "state protection" scandal came to light. The then minister of justice and police, Elisabeth Kopp was accused by the press of involment in drug-money laundering and had to step back. In the wake of this affair, the Swiss parliament called for stronger measures against organised crime and required the installation of an electronic system of surveillance as a means to trace Maffia structures within drug business.

DOSIS however does not appear capable to fulfill such wishes. No information on the flux of illegal drug money through Swiss bank accounts will be collected in DOSIS. "We lack the legal competence for such a purpose", says Lutz Krauskopf, director of the BAP (federal office of police). DOSIS will rather focus on information concerning the half-open drug scene in urban areas. DOSIS will contain information both on purely profit oriented dealers and small consumer-dealers, who seek to finance at least part of their own consumption by selling drugs. As a matter of fact, this latter category makes up for over 80% of trafficking in the streets. Mere consumers of illicit drugs will however not be registered.

Critics are concerned that the storage of "non-warranted" data in the DOSIS-computer is explicitly provided for. When e.g. a memo-book with hundreds of adresses and phone numbers is found on a dealer, "we want them all in our drug investigation system, otherwise it would make no sense", says a former leading police commander.

From the point of view of investigation technics this may appear reasonable. "We want to know exactly, where a suspect of qualified drug trafficking has appearde before and whom he has met", says Jörg Schild, one of the initiators of DOSIS.

Federal officials try to quiet down concern about infringements on civil rights and liberties by such an extensive system of surveillance by pointing at three levels of control enabling the deletion of erroneous or obsolete data. Two of these instances of control are however located inside the federal office of police. The third is the federal ombudsman for data protection.

Access for persons concerned to their personal data is granted in principle. It is refused only pending criminal prosecution, but the concerned will thus learn that he/she is registered.

Similar projects within the EC have drawn harsh criticism of the German Association for Data Protection who sees the argument of combatting drug delinquency as a "dooropener for further police powers of a European office of criminal investigation [Europol] which is acting unrestrained by any legal chicaneries and control."

 

Paraphrased from Tagesanzeiger, 8.2.93: Droht der Drogen-Supercomputer DOSIS zum Schnüffelcomputer zu werden?, by Beat Leuthardt and Rolf Wespe.