Court of Justice of the European Union
Luxembourg, 21 December 2016

Press and Information

Judgment in Joined Cases C-203/15 Tele2 Sverige AB v Post-och
telestyrelsen and C-698/15 Secretary of State for the Home Department v
Tom Watson and Others

The Members States may not impose a general obligation to retain data on
providers of electronic communications services
EU law precludes a general and indiscriminate retention of traffic data and location data, but it is
open to Members States to make provision, as a preventive measure, for targeted retention of that
data solely for the purpose of fighting serious crime, provided that such retention is, with respect to
the categories of data to be retained, the means of communication affected, the persons
concerned and the chosen duration of retention, limited to what is strictly necessary. Access of the
national authorities to the retained data must be subject to conditions, including prior review by an
independent authority and the data being retained within the EU
In the Digital Rights Ireland judgment of 2014,1 the Court of Justice declared invalid the directive
on the retention of data2 on the ground that the interference, by the general obligation to retain
traffic data and location data imposed by that directive, in the fundamental rights to respect for
privacy and the protection of personal data was not limited to what was strictly necessary.
Following that judgment, two references were made to the Court in relation to the general
obligation imposed, in Sweden and in the UK, on providers of electronic communications services
to retain the data, relating to those communications, retention of which was required by the
invalidated directive.
On the day following delivery of the Digital Rights Ireland judgment, the telecommunications
company Tele2 Sverige informed the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority that it had decided that
it would no longer retain data and that it intended to erase data previously recorded (Case
C-203/15). Swedish law requires the providers of electronic communications services to retain,
systematically and continuously, and with no exceptions, all the traffic data and location data of all
their subscribers and registered users, with respect to all means of electronic communication.
In Case C-698/15, Mr Tom Watson, Mr Peter Brice and Mr Geoffrey Lewis brought actions
challenging the UK rules on the retention of data which enable the Secretary of State for the Home
Department to require public telecommunications operators to retain all the data relating to
communications for a maximum period of 12 months, with the provision that retention of the
content of those communications is excluded.
In references for a preliminary ruling made by the Kammarrätten i Stockholm (Administrative Court
of Appeal, Stockholm, Sweden) and the Court of Appeal (England and Wales) (Civil Division) (UK),
the Court is requested to state whether national rules that impose on providers a general obligation
to retain data and which make provision for access by the competent national authorities to the
retained data, where, inter alia, the objective pursued by that access is not restricted solely to
fighting serious crime and where access is not subject to prior review by a court or an independent
administrative authority, are compatible with EU law (in particular the directive on ‘privacy and


Joined Cases: C-293/12 and C-594/12 Digital Rights Ireland and Seitlinger and Others, see Press Release No 54/14.
Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the retention of data
generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of
public communications networks and amending Directive 2002/58/EC (OJ 2006 L 105, p. 54).

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