Founded in 1994, Swedish Internet provider Bahnhof has been serving local Internet users for a quarter of a century.
During this time the company has fought hard to protect the privacy of its subscribers. This includes those who are accused of copyright infringement.
Unlike many other ISPs, Bahnhof aims to minimize its data logging practices only to the extent it is required to under the law. In recent years the ISP set up its logging policies in such a way that it can refuse requests for IP-address information from so-called copyright trolls, by deleting all relevant data after 24 hours.
The company based this practice on a European Court of Justice ruling which concluded that the European Data Retention Directive is invalid. However, data retention is now back under the spotlight.
After going back to the drawing board, Swedish lawmakers revised the Electronic Communications Act (LEK) to institute Swedish data retention requirements. This resulted in an amended law which goes into effect today, requiring all Swedish ISPs to keep detailed subscriber logs for at least 10 months.
For the Internet providers who already kept logs little will change, but Bahnhof sees it as a disaster. To minimize the privacy intrusions of its users the company has rolled out “Plan B.”
Starting today Bahnhof has no other option than to log individual IP-address allocations and other personal info for ten months. However, the company stresses that it will do so in a secure manner, making sure that it’s not available to the “copyright mafia.”
With the term “copyright mafia,” the company refers to the rightsholders who go after allegedly pirating Internet subscribers to demand settlements. Bahnhof has been a fierce opponent of this practice and ensures its customers that it won’t share any logs for this purpose.
“All Bahnhof customers can rest assured that their customer data is stored securely with us, that we delete after 10 months, and that we will never disclose information unless it’s in accordance with the Electronic Communications Act.
“This means that if someone else asks for customer data, including a court that handles civil litigation, we have nothing to disclose because our customers’ information is locked away as ‘safe intended for LEK’,” Bahnhof adds.
Not all ISPs have separated this data and that’s why many do comply with copyright holder requests. However, Bahnhof’s strict data policies ensure that only law enforcement agencies can request this info.
Still, Bahnhof is not happy with the mandatory data retention and will continue to protest the law whenever it can. In addition, it also points its customers to an alternative option through which they can ensure their privacy.
Bahnhof also offers a VPN service which is not required to keep any logs. If people use this, their IP-address information remains private. The VPN service was launched when earlier data retention requirements were put in place and is relevant once again.
“It is not enough to be a customer with us to be safe online, your subscription does not protect your data traffic automatically. You need to protect yourself and your data yourself with a VPN service as well,” Bahnhof writes.
While this sounds like a good opportunity to sell something ‘extra,’ the ISP is offering everyone a rather generous six-month free trial without any further obligations. After that, the costs are pretty reasonable as well, roughly $4 per month (SEK 40).
The six-month free VPN trial is open to anyone, which means that subscribers from other ISPs can try it as well.