Four of Sweden's telcos stop storing customer data after EU retention directive overthrown

Sweden's telecoms operators have stopped collecting subscriber data despite the country's data retention laws remaining in force.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Telia, Tele2, Three, and local ISP Bahnhof have pulled the plug on the customer data storage systems required to keep the four telcos in compliance with Sweden's version of the EU Data Retention Directive.

"We have stopped all data retention, taking effect just hours after the European court verdict Tuesday 8 April. We have also permanently deleted all old records," Bahnhof CEO Jon Karlung told ZDNet.

The move follows a decision from Europe's Court of Justice on Tuesday which ruled the 2006 directive invalid €3m since it trampled on Europeans' rights to privacy and personal data protection. The same court fined Sweden €3m last year for delays in transposing the same directive into national legislation.

Since May 2012, Sweden's telecom operators have been required to store subscriber and location data for mobile, internet services, email, and internet telephony for six months — the lower end of the EU directive that required up to two years' retention.

"I strongly suggest other providers to follow our example. And I also advise European consumers to ask their providers how they act in this matter — put pressure on your service provider," Karlung said. 

Telia, Sweden's largest operator, and Tele2 joined Bahnhof yesterday after it became clearer that Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS), the telecoms regulator, would stop enforcing the legislation.

"We have stopped retaining data following requirements in the data retention directive until the Swedish legislator has clarified the situation," a Telia spokesperson told ZDNet. "We think the judgement is good because it is designed to protect our customers' privacy."

Three, Sweden's fourth-largest operator, also confirmed it has stopped collecting data.

"We have asked PTS for a clarification on this matter and if we are not informed otherwise we will act as if we no longer have the obligation to store data according to the law," a Three Sweden spokesperson said.

A PTS spokesperson said it had assessed the EU ruling and decided that despite there being no change in Sweden's legislation, it would have difficulties enforcing it.

"We decided not to act against the operators who stop retaining data," the PTS spokesperson said.

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