Dutch carriers abused data retention law for marketing purposes

While the law was widely violated, the companies were not punished

By , IDG News Service |  Legal

Some Dutch telecommunications and Internet providers have exploited European Union laws mandating the retention of communications data to fight crime, using the retained data for unauthorized marketing purposes, according to a report by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs' Radiocommunications Agency.

The report, made public on Monday by Dutch digital rights organization Bits of Freedom following a freedom of information request, was completed in April 2012, but carriers and ISPs were not prosecuted for the breaches reported.

Bits of Freedom and other digital rights groups called on the European Commission to prevent further abuse of the European Data Retention Directive, which requires ISPs and telecommunications operators across the E.U. to retain connection data for a period between six months and two years, mainly for the purposes of investigating, detecting and prosecuting serious crime and terrorism.

The Netherlands introduced its data retention law in September 2009, requiring telecommunications operators to store data for one year and Internet providers to retain information for six months.

While the companies can legally use the retained data for billing, market research, sales activities and value added services, 40 of the 229 companies that responded to a mandatory survey said they used the information "solely for purposes other than the legally permitted processing goals," according to the report. Still others said they used the data for both legally permitted and non-permitted purposes.

The agency suspects that the companies use the data for instance for illegal marketing purposes, said Mariël van Dam, the agency's spokeswoman on Monday. She couldn't immediately comment on other possible uses.

In order to use traffic and location data for purposes other than billing, the service provider has to obtain the customer's explicit consent, and customers should be able to withdraw this consent at any time, according to the report. Only 147 of the 229 providers asked for consent, presumably largely through their terms and conditions, the agency said.

The law was mainly violated by medium-size and small operators, while major service providers complied with the law, the report said.

The Radiocommunications Agency decided at the time not to punish the violators because the research was done relatively shortly after the law was introduced, said Van Dam. "We said that we should give the companies a chance to comply with the law."

Join us:
Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Tumblr

LinkedIn

Google+

Answers - Powered by ITworld

ITworld Answers helps you solve problems and share expertise. Ask a question or take a crack at answering the new questions below.

Join us:
Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Tumblr

LinkedIn

Google+

Ask a Question