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Bildt's Tough Questions for Barack

Sweden's foreign minister has his work cut out for him with the POTUS.


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STOCKHOLM (Rixstep) — Recent revelations in the Swedish media show that foreign minister Carl Bildt is going to have to choose sides in his coming confrontation with US president Barack Obama. Several Swedish political parties have their email servers in the US where the NSA can harvest their correspondence.

Staff at IDG Techworld were contacted in late spring by someone with good insight into the communication channels of the country's parliamentary parties. This individual told them that confidential information was often exchanged through email accounts, despite the fact that many of the mail servers were on US soil and therefore prey for the NSA.

A quick check by IDG Techworld established that half of the mail servers for the parliamentary parties were outside the country, and three of those were in the US, where everything falls under US legislation, no matter the source and destination of the correspondence.

Anne-Marie Eklund Löwinder, security chief for the Swedish Foundation for Internet Infrastructure, told IDG Techworld that her foundation has repeatedly cited the dangers in outsourcing and repeatedly admonished Swedish agencies and state corporations to bring their mail servers back inside the nation's borders.

'We've been warning about this for years', says Löwinder. 'This means that not only Swedish but also foreign intel agencies can eavesdrop on the traffic with no great difficulty. Putting one's servers outside Sweden means the information passes over Swedish borders [giving the Swedish FRA the carte blanche to intercept and send the data to the US by prior agreement - Ed]'.

Löwinder can't tell how seriously the political parties take these warnings, but she notes that they're doing more and more outsourcing, rather than less.

[Carl Bildt himself is known for circumventing freedom of information guidelines by directing his own email traffic over Google Gmail servers, despite knowledge of - or perhaps precisely because of - what's going on with NSA surveillance. See here. Ed.]

'We published an Internet health report where we reported on the outsourcing of email by state corporations', says Löwinder. 'A year ago 35% of mail servers were in Sweden; this year it's only 16%.'

So IDG Techworld contacted Sweden's sleepy political parties, but few of their IT departments wanted to comment. Sweden's Liberal Party use Google, and those servers are in the US. The party referred matters to their undersecretary Anders Yngman, who curtly replied:

'We keep up with developments in the field but otherwise do not wish to comment.'

Social democrat IT chief Mattias Gökinan replied that his party's mail server is at least in the EU. Staff at IDG Techworld located that mail server in the UK, but at the time they contacted Gökinan, it was in Redmond Washington, home of Microsoft.

Carl Bildt's Moderates (convervatives) have their mail server in Sweden. Their IT chief Anders Gerby explains:

'Our mail server's in Sweden, the spam and malware filters too, for reasons such as those you've cited.'

[Which would seem to indicate that Carl Bildt is aware of the situation. Ed.]

Anne-Marie Eklund Löwinder says that the parties must take this matter seriously.

'Our report offers advice and recommendations on how to better secure our Internet infrastructure. I have personally handed a copy of this report to IT minister Anna-Karin Hatt's political expert. But I've yet to get a response.'

IDG Techworld point out that it's not only the surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden that's of concern. Security expert Mikael Simovits explains how the US Patriot Act comes into play.

'The Patriot Act applies to all US corporations, including corporations with ownership by people outside the US, and regardless of where those corporations are located. US corporations are required to hand over all information upon request, and they're not allowed to tell their clients about it.'

Bildt's Tough Questions for Barack

Although Carl Bildt's political party would seem to have taken proper measures to protect their data, the other Swedish political parties have not. They're still dreaming away in LaLa Land. Yet the real questions concern not the legendary Swedish lethargy in such matters, but why the NSA can encroach on this data in the first place. It would seem Carl Bildt has his work cut out for him. But of course it remains to be seen if he will dare say anything about it, or for that matter if he'll even be given the opportunity.

See Also
Rixstep Special Report: Our Man Bildt
The Technological: Carl Bildt Does a Sarah Palin
IDG Techworld: Riksdagens e-post övervakas (SWEDISH)

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