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Sweden & The Data Retention Directive

So who made this into an issue anyway?

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Sweden's former minister of justice Thomas Bodström really loves this law. He likes lots of things that monitor and control people - lots of CCTVs and stuff. He's also the one ultimately responsible for the raid on The Pirate Bay. And he also helped push the Data Retention Directive through the EU parliament.

Quite the guy.

Fortunately for the past four years he's been replaced by a middle aged woman with a degree in basket weaving. The one who wants to shame criminal suspects by sending them nastygrams with the snail mail in colour coded envelopes so all the neighbours will see.

Red means this, purple means that, nobody's convicted, they're only suspected, but that will help put innocents and criminals both to shame.

Good move. Heja Sverige friskt humör.

Back on track: the EU data retention directive is something Rick Falkvinge and his fellow pirates have been fighting since Day One, just as they've fought all the silly laws the big political blocks seem so frisky to implement.

So now Sweden's own Metro - the original - publishes a survey on how Sweden's political parties officially feel about it.

The irony - the stupidity - is of course that they don't bother asking the Pirate Party, without which there wouldn't have been any debate in the first place.

It's also highly instructive to see how minor parties are learning that you have to espouse the platform of the Pirates to get those votes - they still have NFC but they've more or less learned what they have to say.

Bahnhof's Jan Karlung

The question is posed by Jan Karlung, head of Sweden's most hacker-friendly ISP, Sweden's very first ISP for that matter, who now house WikiLeaks servers in a former nuclear bunker. Karlung and Bahnhof have been a thorn in the side of the powers that be for years. They've successfully fought off the 'Anti-Pirate Bureau' who tried to plant evidence on their servers, and so forth.

Karlung has categorically refused to comply with the directive. Now he asks openly what the political parasites of 2010 will do about it. Word is not action when it comes to the old politics of course. But it's amusing to see how they react.

'Are You Planning on Passing the Data Retention Directive?'

That's what's asked. And here's what the parties responded.


'Vänstern' is Sweden's old 'Vänsterpartiet kommunisterna' (VPK for short) who at one time were big fans (true) of Josef Stalin. They actually had some good leaders. Then along came one Gudrun Schyman who got busted with her kids at rave parties south of town, was found guilty of cheating on her tax returns several years in a row, and later forced to admit she was a raving alcoholic.

So Gudrun Schyman did what all good politicians do when they run into trouble like that - disappear out of sight until people's notoriously short memory makes it all fade away. So she reemerged as a feminist and has been attacking men ever since. And it's worked well. Trouble being she's with a different party today and 'Vänstern' happily have to make it on their own.

Here's how 'Vänstern' responded to Jan Karlung.

'We want Sweden's parliament to say no to passing the directive because it's in violation of fundamental human rights. People shouldn't have to be afraid that the electronic data trails they leave behind can be used against them and jeopardise their personal integrity.'


Miljöpartiet is Sweden's green party. They're in the parliament today. Naturally they work mostly with environmental issues. The Pirate Bay's Peter Sunde is a member. But they too have learned you don't pick up the votes unless you espouse the platform of the Pirate Party.

Here's how Miljöpartiet responded to Jan Karlung.

'The data retention directive has been crushed in the German constitutional court as being a threat to personal integrity. There is currently an ongoing evaluation in the EU to see if the directive has to be changed.'

'The European Court will in all likelihood tear it up. We are opposed to it and don't want to see it used in Sweden.'


Socialdemokraterna are Sweden's social democrats. Traditionally Sweden's by far largest political party. They've run into trouble of late but mostly have ruled the country for the past 90 years. Yet as will be seen from their response, there is at least one good reason they're falling behind today.

Here's how Socialdemokraterna responded to Jan Karlung.

'Yes, we've had a responsibility since 2006 to pass the directive.'

'We need this data so our police can catch rapists and other criminals.'

'People are more secure with data retention regulated by law and the directive should have been passed into law according to instructions from the EU.'


'Centern' is Sweden's old farmer's party. They were part of several alliances with the social democrats long ago and actually took over the prime minister post briefly in the 1970s.

They're also responsible for 'sleeping with the devil' - finagling the rules to get the christian democrats (KD) through the door to strengthen their own power base.

Today they're a waning party in many ways superseded by the greens and continually in danger of falling below the all-important 4% barrier.

Here's how 'Centern' responded to Jan Karlung.

'No. The data retention directive is an extremely intrusive law which also puts significant financial burden on ISPs (and therefore ultimately Internet users). And we don't see anything positive in the tendency to register more and more things with the Internet.'


Folkpartiet are Sweden's 'liberals'. They've occasionally sided with the social democrats but mostly kept to the other side. They were part of the brief 'Centern' government in the 1970s. Today they try as much as possible to stick close to the conservatives.

Here's how Folkpartiet responded to Jan Karlung.

'No matter the parliamentary majority Sweden must pass the data retention directive. Our government are in agreement to limit storage time to six months. The proposal is currently being reviewed - we don't want to present a proposal with shortcomings that can threaten integrity.'


'KD' are Sweden's christian democrats. They wouldn't have had a chance of getting into parliament if they hadn't gone to bed with 'Centern' years ago. Their positions are often regarded as 'off the map' and 'hostile'.

A KD member caused a stir recently by declaring state-financed brothels a top priority.

Here's how KD responded to Jan Karlung.

'The member countries of the EU are duty bound to pass the directive. But we want to clearly regulate under what conditions the data may be used.'

'The directive is currently being reviewed in order to combine effective crime fighting with increased protection of personal integrity.'


Moderaterna are, despite the name, Sweden's conservative party. They're traditionally in the far right. They've now been in power for four years. This is the first time they've had the PM post for as long as anyone can remember. Current PM Fredrik Reinfeldt campaigned in 2006 on the promise he would not make criminals out of an entire generation of file-sharers.

But his government - with the liberals, KD, and 'Centern' - have done as much or more than the previous government (with Bodström) to dismantle important social and political reforms. Many of the most feared and hated 'digital laws' were passed by Moderaterna.

Here's how Moderaterna responded to Jan Karlung.

'Before we pass something as radical as a law for storage of traffic data, we want to look at other legislation processes - the police data law and the police methodology investigation - that also affect the ability of authorities to access information.'

'The data retention directive means a lot more work and higher costs for Internet providers.'

Pirate Party

But of course the Pirate Party weren't asked. There are several possible reasons for this.

√ The editors of Metro are just plain stupid. (This has been seen before.)
√ It's only the parties currently in parliament that count (which is ridiculous).
√ They as everyone else are scared shitless of the Pirate Party (quite probable).

Whatever: Sweden's Pirate Party know a few things about the data retention directive - as opposed to the other parties who couldn't give a damn - and they've probably studied it more than any other political group in the EU.

Here's what they say (the simple version).

Why We're Against the Data Retention Directive

The data retention directive means information is stored about where you are, who you contact, and when you contact them, both via telephone and the Internet. This makes it possible to draw a chart with timelines and locations where you've been the past half year. This chart includes a complete listing of every person you've contacted via the Internet or telephone during this period. Your government can thereby find out everything about where you've been and who you know. You no longer have a private life - the state knows more about you than you do.

The Pirate Party sees no reason for such a huge intrusion into personal integrity and thereby wants to stop the directive as a crime against the European Convention on Human Rights and Sweden's Constitution.

What is the Data Retention Directive?

The data retention directive is a binding decision from the EU about legislation that is to be passed in member countries in 2007. The purpose is to achieve a common standard for what traffic data is saved by the telephone and Internet providers in the member countries - traffic data which can then be used, for example, in crime fighting or a hunt for terrorists.

Sweden with the earlier social democrat government was one of the instigators of the directive after the bomb attacks on Madrid in 2004. And still Sweden is tardy in passing it. There's a law being prepared - the so-called logging law - but for various reasons it hasn't been finished yet.

What Will Happen with the Coming Law?

Telephone and Internet providers will be required to store all traffic information for at least six months. (The directive says between six months and two years. The Swedish discussion up to now has only been about six months or one year.) By 'traffic information' is meant data that's created with providers that reveals who are communicating, where they're physically located, and when the communication takes place.

What's Retained?

In the study that's supposedly to be the basis for the proposed law in Sweden (SOU 2007:76 - Lagring av trafikuppgifter för brottsbekämpning) one can infer that information to be retained includes: telephone number/IP address, subscription details, geographic location for both parties, login and logout times, and the type of communication connection. The communications technologies covered by the directive include terrestrial telephony, mobile telephony, Internet telephony, message management such as electronic mail and SMS, and all forms of Internet access. These details are to be stored even for failed communication attempts.

What's the Point?

By setting a minimum level for what data is saved and how long it is saved, one secures the means to trace errors and sabotage as well as to access information for legal authorities when needed. By setting a maximum level, one secures a minimal protection of the subscriber's personal integrity.

Providers already retain data so they can bill subscribers and deal with abuse such as spam and sabotage. The directive ensures uniform rules of contents and access.

How Does the Logging Law Threaten Our Integrity?

When a law on storage of traffic data is put together with other legislation such as rules for police work and prosecution preparation, it becomes apparent that state has given itself the right to peek over our shoulders. The state gets access to a database of all our electronic contacts and our mobile phones are turned into pure tracking devices.

Already today nearly 40% of all wiretaps are irrelevant and superfluous information. In other words, it's far from only real criminals who are being spied on, and we can hardly expect the situation to improve if we don't set a truly new course. With such a law we give the government a tool that lets them in retrospect trace precisely who has done what with whom, where, and when.

This means the state reserves the right to study how political organisations come about, which doctors you contact and how often, how many and how frequent contacts you have with your friends and acquaintances. The benevolent state tells us this information will not be abused. But how do we know the state is always benevolent - how can we know how this data will be used in the future?

Other Side Effects?

There are at least two further considerations above and beyond the threat to our private lives.

The data retention directive costs money. Denmark passed the directive in 2007 and it cost them $25 million. But because Sweden is both a bigger and more populated country, the cost will be even greater for us. One of the reasons the directive hasn't become law yet in Sweden is it's not been decided who's going to pay for it.

The data retention directive leads to self-censorship. People will avoid communicating about sensitive issues. Putting the brakes on communication in a modern society, allowing fear and insecurity to spread, influences all else - happiness, welfare, health, the schools - everything. And self-censorship is a reality. After passing the directive in Germany, a survey showed that 11% of those questioned admitted they'd shunned email, the phone, and the mobile phone. And 52% also said they would no longer use the telephone for sensitive matters.

EU Demands & Fines

Sweden was felled in the European Court for postponing the directive. If our reasons are not considered good enough, then we'll have to pay millions in penalties. Which in turn has led to two discussions. The first discussion is about the government making Sweden liable to pay fines to merely avoid a debate about personal integrity in the 2010 election campaign. The law's been postponed until after the elections but the clock is ticking off more and more money. The other discussion is about our ability to stop the directive. Some opponents (foremost in Centern) say we have to pass it and the best we can do is to see it's as limited as possible as we wait for the European Court to rule against it.

It's not only in Sweden the directive has come under criticism. The German constitutional court has limited the access to the information by German authorities. The Romanian constitutional court held that the directive violates Romanian constitutional law. There are a lot of arguments for the directive even being in violation of the EU Charter because it's not in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights. The Pirate Party is of the opinion that whilst we wait for the courts to sort out the issues we should very simply refuse to pass this directive. This method has been used before by member countries as one of several ways to influence EU legislation. Sweden, one of the most obedient members of the EU, has been able to not pass EU directives without the sky falling. A recent study of countries that passed the directive shows that local legislation often goes further than what the directive allows and that such legislation is illegal.


The debate about the data retention directive intensified in the spring of 2010 when KD MEPs (including Alf Svenson) got a majority to support a written comment on child pornography. The comment proposed more effective methods to fight child pornography and one of these was to add a requirement to retain all search traffic as well - in other words, all search strings users type into search engines such as Google. They called this initiative 'Smile29'.

'No' to Data Retention

A more positive proposal came from a couple of liberals - Camilla Lindberg and Mathias Sundin: at the website 'No to Data Retention' candidates in the Swedish national elections can sign an avowal they will not vote for the Swedish logging law. All parliamentary candidates from the Pirate Party signed up.

Further Reading
Piratpartiet: Datalagringsdirektivet
Wikipedia: Data Retention Directive

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