VPN Articles and News

Swedish ISP Offers A Free VPN Subscription To Customers

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

Swedish ISP Bahnhof has hit upon a unique idea to protect its customers from online surveillance. The ISP, which has 10,000+ business customers and 150,000 residential internet subscribers; has decided to offer a free VPN subscription to all of its customers. Bahnhof is taking this unusual step to comply with the Swedish legal requirement that directs all ISPs to store customer data and yet offer its customers a way of keeping their data private. The company is currently the only Swedish ISP that is not logging customer data for a mandatory period of six months and as a result, it is staring at a huge fine from Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PST).

It may be recalled that Swedish ISPs stopped collecting and storing customer metadata after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) declared European Union’s data retention directive as invalid. Before the ECJ’s ruling came into effect, Swedish ISPs were following Sweden’s version of data retention directive which required them to log customer metadata for a period of up to two years. Bahnhof, which is considered as a big supporter of free speech, was the first ISP to stop collecting user data after the ECJ gave its verdict and the company even deleted data logs that it had collected over the last few years. Other Swedish ISPs like Telia, Three, Tele2 and ComHem soon followed suit and stopped collecting and monitoring customer data altogether.

The ECJ ruling prompted a review of Swedish data retention directive. In its report, the review committee concluded that since the directive complies with all obligations made under European Convention on Human Rights, it can be enforced again without breaking any EU laws. After the review committee gave its recommendation, PTS was authorized to enforce the directive all over again. Most Swedish ISPs voluntarily reintroduced data logging but Bahnhof has not implemented it so far. As a result, PST has decided to impose a fine of 5 million SEK on the company unless it starts logging customer metadata by 24th of November.

In order to give its customers a fair chance of protecting their privacy, Bahnhof has decided to offer a complimentary VPN subscription to all customers. The no-logging VPN service, LEX Integrity, will commence operations from 24th November, the same day Bahnhof is set to resume data logging activities. The service would be managed by July 5 Foundation which is a Swedish rights group and a vocal proponent of defending freedom of speech and privacy on the internet.

While the July 5 Foundation was founded by the team behind Bahnhof, the rights group has clarified that Bahnhof staff would not get access to LEX Integrity’s servers. And since VPN providers that are based in Sweden have no legal obligation to collect customer data, Bahnhof subscribers who decide to use the VPN service would be able to protect their browsing habits and private data from the Swedish authorities. The free VPN service will offer PPTP based security but customers looking for a more secure privacy service would be able to upgrade to an OpenVPN based service by paying a small fee.

February 2, 2015

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