Sweden implements law allowing eavesdropping

Sweden's Parliament approved a law that gives authorities sweeping powers to eavesdrop on all email and telephone traffic that crosses the Nordic nation's borders, an Associated Press report said.

Critics have slammed the law as an invasion of privacy and an infringement on civil liberties, the Associated Press report said.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Parliament, some handing out copies of George Orwell's novel '1984,' about a fictional futuristic police state, the report added.

The right-leaning government's slim majority helped secure 143-138 approval, despite strong opposition from left-leaning parties led by Social Democrats.

Supporters argued the law, which takes effect in January, will help prevent terrorist attacks.
It gives Swedish defense officials the right to scan international phone calls, emails and faxes for sensitive keywords without a court order.

The companies Swedish telecom TeliaSonera and Google have called the measure the most far-reaching eavesdropping plan in Europe, comparable to a US government program.

Many European countries have gradually increased government surveillance powers, including wiretapping and police searches, in a move to combat terror plots.

In Sweden currently, email and phone surveillance requires a court order if police suspect a crime, although the intelligence agency is allowed to spy on airborne signals, such as radio and satellite traffic.