No promises to scrap data laws

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Prime Minister Erna Solberg refused to declare an outright scrapping of controversial data laws in Parliament on Wednesday. The Norwegian laws were drawn up in response to the European Union’s Data Retention Directive, which was declared invalid by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg during parliamentary question time last year. On Wednesday she was asked if she'd drop controversial data storage legislation, after the EU directive the rules were based on was ruled invalid by the European Court of Justice on Tuesday. Solberg refused to scrap the laws, saying it was yet to be seen if the consequences of the judgment had an impact on the Norwegian legislation. PHOTO: Terje Heiestad/Stortinget

Prime Minister Erna Solberg during parliamentary question time last year. On Wednesday she was asked if she’d drop controversial data storage legislation, after the EU directive the rules were based on was ruled invalid by the European Court of Justice on Tuesday. Solberg refused to scrap the laws, saying it was yet to be seen if the consequences of the judgment had an impact on the Norwegian legislation. PHOTO: Terje Heiestad/Stortinget

The directive was made by the EU in 2006 in reaction to terror attacks in New York, London and Madrid, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). It was designed to harmonize information storage in a bid to fight organized crime throughout Europe. In response, the Norwegian Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet, Ap) and Conservatives (Høyre) agreed on laws requiring telecommunications companies to store data traffic for six months. At the time Labour’s Jens Stoltenberg was prime minister; now Solberg, a Conservative, is in charge.

Under the Norwegian laws, information including where and when an individual uses a mobile phone, sends email, or browses the internet would be saved, but not actual call content. The laws attracted strong criticism during public hearings and were controversial in Parliament, passing by just nine votes. They had not actually been implemented, as the directive was put on hold until July 2015 pending the outcome of the ECJ case.

The ECJ in Luxembourg deemed the directive invalid on Tuesday, on the grounds that it violates EU citizen’s fundamental rights. The Norwegian politicians who opposed the directive demanded in question time on Wednesday that the local laws be scrapped.

“Can we strike out this date for implementation of the directive?” Geir Pollestad of the Centre Party (Senterpartiet, Sp) asked Solberg.

“The verdict was announced yesterday,” replied Solberg. “We need time to go through the consequences of it. We will consider if we will make changes, and will come back to Parliament to discuss this.”

“This was a very disappointing and surprising response from the Prime Minister,” said Socialist Left (Sosialistisk Venstreparti, SV) leader Audun Lysbakken. “Yesterday a dramatic judgment came from the EU, and so it is very strange that the government does not say they will stop this process and hold a thorough debate.”

Both Sp and SV were governing parties in the Stoltenberg coalition, and dissented to the rules when they first came before Parliament. The Liberal (Venstre) and Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti, KrF) both agreed the directive should now be thrown out.

May not be affected by the ruling
“I have not said that the directive will be implemented anyway,” said Solberg. “The question is what kind of national law we should have to secure storage of critical data, while taking care of privacy. It’s not like we’re going to implement a directive which no longer exists.”

“Because now this directive doesn’t exist any more, it is no longer valid,” Solberg continued. But she argued Norway had adopted a much stricter line than the EU in terms of personal privacy, so it may be the laws Norway had drawn up were not affected by the ECJ ruling.

“The question now is what sort of national legislation we should have going forward,” said Solberg. “We will consider if this judgement will have consequences for the regulations which Parliament has already adopted, or if we can keep everything.”

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate