The Swedish telecom operator Tele 2 plans to erase all data identifying its 600,000 customers, a decision that will undermine the new IPRED law and make the hunt for internet scofflaws more difficult.
Starting on Tuesday, Tele 2 will destroy records of IP addresses after they’ve been processed for internal use. It’s a way to secure the customers’ privacy — and, the company likely hopes, to strengthen the ISP’s market position.
“This is a strong wish from our customers and therefore we’ve decided to no longer keep records of customers’ IP addresses,” Tele2’s CEO in Sweden, Niclas Palmstierna, told the Swedish news agency TT. “We do this to strengthen the protection of customer privacy.”
“We’ve analyzed the legislation carefully and found that we have no obligations at all to store information about our customers’ IP addresses,” he continued.
The IPRED law went into effect on April 1 in Sweden and allows courts to order ISP’s to hand over details that can identify suspected illegal file sharers. Previously, the only option for copyright holders was to report alleged infringement to the police.
Tele 2 is following the example of Bahnhof and Alltele, smaller Swedish internet operators that declared early on that they would no longer store users’ IP addresses. But the announcement from Tele 2 is of considerably greater significance, since the company is one of Sweden’s main telecom providers and boasts a giant customer base.
With no data to reveal, the new law will be ineffective.
Henrik PontÚn of the Swedish Anti-Piracy Bureau is very critical of the operators’ decision.
“This will cause a huge problem for the police in their investigations of severe internet crimes, such as child pornography,” he told Threat Level. “I think it’s a shame that a company puts its profit interest ahead of their customers’ safety. This will open the door to crime.”
A police official told TT that this could have a serious impact, not only on law enforcement’s bid to crack down on internet pirates, but also on other criminal investigations.
“In some cases, this will make an investigation impossible,” said Stefan Kronkvist, the head of Swedish police’s internet crime unit.
The police are now waiting for a new legislation implementing the European Union’s data retention directive, which would force ISPs to store electronic data for a minimum of six months. That law is planned to come into force this fall.