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EU Court rejects Swedish customer data collection

Updated onsdag 21 december 2016 kl 14.45
Published onsdag 21 december 2016 kl 12.27
ISP: "A victory for Internet users in Sweden and the EU"
(3:16 min)
Tvådelad bild: Fingrar på en laptop och en man vid dator som ringer i sin mobil
Credit: TT/Sveriges Radio bildmontage

The EU’s Court of Justice has ruled that Sweden cannot force telecoms operators and Internet service providers to routinely store data on what their customers do online and whom they call.

The decision comes more than two years after a similar ruling, after which Swedish net providers told the government they planned to suspend data storage, arguing it was a violation of privacy rights. But the Swedish Posts and Telecom Authority, which had a different interpretation of the court decision, threatened then to impose fines on any operators who did not continue to store customer data.

The court does permit data storage in some limited circumstances specifically to fight crime.

In a press release Wednesday, the EU court writes “EU law precludes a general and indiscriminate retention of traffic data and location data, but it is open to Member States to make provision, as a preventative measure, for targeted retention of that date solely for the purpose of fighting serious crime.”

Stefan Backman, legal head of operator Tele 2 says the court’s ruling is clear:

“It is a very clear rejection of the Swedish system,” he tells Swedish Radio News. “They reject the Swedish data storage system on point after point, both regarding the scope of the storage and the opportunities for the police to access this information.”

But Sweden's Home Affairs minister Anders Ygeman criticised the ruling on a day when he unveiled tough new measures to fight organised crime.

"It is obvious that many of those we have convicted of serious violent crimes in Sweden would not have been convicted if we had not been able to store this data," he tells news agency TT.

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