The Data Retention Directive can be described as one of the post 9-11 anti-terrorist measures (More precisely, the idea came up after the terror attack in Madrid in 2004). One of the initiators was actually the former Swedish (Social Democratic) Minister for Justice Thomas Bodström in 2005. The process led to an EU directive which must be implemented by all member States.
The Data Retention Directive requires telecommunication companies in the member states to gather some data for between six months and two years. (The exact time is up to each member state to decide; Sweden has chosen the shortest possible time – six months).
The data that needs to be stored is the location of each call as well as time and duration of the communication and the telephone numbers involved. The same applies to text messages and e-mails. No content in the messages are to be saved.
Sweden has so far not to implemented the directive. During a voting last year, a minority in the Riksdag (The Greens, the Left Party and the Sweden Democrats) managed to postpone it for one year. Read also Data Retention may become delayed.
Those who wanted the Riksdag to vote in favor of implementing this directive can, to simplify it, be divided into two groups.
The pragmatists, which can be found in all ‘yes-parties’, say that they might not like the directive as such but that the EU-member states, including Sweden, have decided about it and that the system wouldn’t function if member states didn’t follow common agreements. They also point at the rather large fine that Sweden pays for failing to implement this directive. (9 600 euro per day since February 4, 2010). Some of the MP say they hope criticism within the union will make the directive optional for the members states in the near future. This expectation is however dismissed by the European commission.
Then there are those (but they have not been heard that much in the debate) who are in favor of the directive as such. They believe that the possible damage for integrity is justified by the needs for the authorities to trace criminals and terrorists.
...and counter arguments
Critics say the directive is a threat to personal integrity. There is always a risk for gathered information to end up in the wrong hands. They also points at several new laws (FRA, Ipred, ACTA etc.) which in aggregate threatens personal integrity in a way that one don’t see if one just watch them one by one.
Another counter argument has been that it will be expensive for the telecommunication companies and therefore for the customers.
Klas Friberg, chief at the Swedish national police force (Rikskriminalen) say to the daily Dagens Nyheter that the directive actually gives the police worse conditions when fighting crimes since they can no longer access data older than six months. (All telecommunication companies retain data for a while so that they can bill their customers, and in some cases they keep it longer than six months, which will now not be permitted).
Technically, all members of the Riksdag are free to vote as they want but in reality there is a big pressure to vote as the party leadership has decided, especially in important issues like this.
Almost four years ago the Riksdag voted about the FRA-law which, under some circumstances, give the state the right to read certain private telecommunication. Then the outcome was not as obvious as this time since the whole opposition voted No. Four MPs from the government-side would have been enough to stop the law and the pressure on those who considered to vote No was extraordinary. This time it was not so ‘dangerous’ if a few MPs voted against the party line since the directive would pass anyway so the pressure has been more bearable. Three Members of the Riksdag; Fredrick Federley, Abir Al-Sahlani and Rickard Nordin, all representing the Center party, voted No against the will of their party.
The directive passed the voting but the discussion about integrity is likely to go on.