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Norwegian university ordered to delete students' internet activity records

Out-Law News | 05 Sep 2011 | 5:06 pm | 1 min. read

A Norwegian university has been told that it cannot record students' use of the internet in order to pass on warning letters about illegal file sharing, according to media reports.

Norway's Data Inspectorate (Datatilsynet) said that the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) could not log students' online activity in order to identify copyright infringers and pass on warning letters from rights holders, a report by TorrentFreak said.

Datatilsynet said that recording students' internet use in order to send copyright holders' warning notices would be a "disproportionate disadvantage" to students' privacy rights "as it would involve extensive handling of privacy information," an automated translation of a report by Universitetsaviser said.

The privacy watchdog ordered that NTNU should stop processing students' personal data from internet history logs "beyond what is necessary in relation to NTNU's own operating and maintenance purposes" after 2 September, the report said.

By the deadline the NTNU also had to set up new procedures to ensure that "personally identifying characteristics", including IP addresses, would be deleted in the future, although the university can store such information for up to three weeks providing the data is only used to "perform the operation and maintenance of [its] IT system," the translated report said.

Datatilsynet issued its orders after copyright licensees had contacted the NTNU to tell it that they believed some users of its computer systems had been engaging in illegal file sharing, the translated report said. Datatilsynet said the university was under no legal obligation to send copyright infringing notices on to students, it said.

The NTNU should consider other ways to combat copyright infringement on its computer systems, such as blocking access to specific websites, Datatilsynet said, according to the translated report

In the UK new measures for combating illegal file sharers were proposed last year by the UK's telecoms regulator. Ofcom has responsibility for writing new regulations on online copyright infringement under the Digital Economy Act.

Ofcom's proposals outlined procedures that would allow copyright owners to identify illegal file sharers and take legal action against them. Under the plans internet service providers (ISPs) would send copyright infringement reports to their customers if they are suspected of copyright infringement.

Details of illegal file-sharers that receive more than three letters in a year would be added to a blacklist and copyright holders would have access to the list to enable them to identify infringers to take legal action, Ofcom's draft plans said. The plans also said ISPs could also have to suspend users' internet access if they are found to be illegally downloading copyrighted material.

Ofcom and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are currently working on a finalised version of the new regulations. A Government spokesperson told Out-Law.com recently that it would "not be too much longer" until the new rules were published.