The government has approved the surveillance of mobile phones and the internet for police investigations into serious crimes.
However, Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said providers of chat sites or social media such as Facebook, cannot be compelled to monitor users and provide information to the authorities.
She said the cabinet had taken into account criticism from the information technology and telecommunications sector.
Sommaruga rebuffed allegations that the measures – to come into force next January – could lead to a “big brother” state or to increased scope for intelligence services to extend activities.
“The state must not collect data at random. We are not paving the way for preventive surveillance,” Sommaruga told the media on Wednesday.
The measures, which do not need parliamentary approval, are necessary to allow the justice authorities to fight crime with modern technology, according to Sommaruga.
The government also wants to allow the use of spy computer software for email and computer telephone services as part of a planned reform of the postal and telecommunications laws.