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IP Address
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Your Internet provider can track your Internet activity.
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Privacy Laws in Iceland

IVPN customers in Iceland trust us every day with their increasing demand for privacy and security. Understand why privacy is such an important issue for customers in Iceland.

Data Retention by ISPs

Iceland has championed itself as being a beacon of net neutrality and online privacy for both its citizens and any organizations who take up business domicile in the country. Of note was a 2015 parliamentary resolution on Equal Access to the Internet which re-defines “data service providers” as “common carriers”, which is believed to be in the spirit of Net Neutrality, whereby access to the Internet is part of all Icelandic citizens’ civil rights, and which are said to reflect the reality of 21st century communication and civil interaction[1]. The key legislation on data privacy in Iceland is the Data Protection Act, which is said to be very protective of Icelandic citizens’ online privacy[2]. The Icelandic Data Protection Authority is responsible for the enforcement of the Act[3].

However, having said that, Iceland did pass the Electronic Communications Act 81/2003 which implemented data retention requirements. This was claimed to be mandated by Iceland’s inclusion in the European Economic Area (EEA). The Icelandic data retention law applies to telecommunication providers and mandates the retention of records for six months. It does stipulate that companies may only deliver information on telecommunications in criminal cases or on matters of public safety, and that such information may not be given to anyone other than the police or the public prosecution[4]. Nevertheless, this data retention legislation could be considered unbecoming of a country like Iceland. However, the government does not place any restrictions on anonymous communication and it is interesting to note that no registration is required when purchasing a SIM card in Iceland, unlike many other countries worldwide.

Digital Copyright Laws

As a member of the EEA, Iceland accepts jurisdiction of the EEA Court. Property rights, which include copyrights, are recognized and protected under the Constitution of Iceland. Copyright is protected in Iceland as per the Copyright Act no. 73/1972, as subsequently amended. There was a case in Rejkjavik against a web site devoted to Bit Torrent file sharing, which was at the request of an Icelandic copyright holder association. The district court ruled in favour of the association and the site was forced to close down. The country’s Supreme Court confirmed the ruling in February 2010[5]. It has been further alleged that the Icelandic government has signalled to police and prosecutors that it wants efforts to be ramped up in order to reduce Internet piracy.

Freedom of Speech and Censorship

Iceland has strong protections for free speech in place, even though libel and insult are criminal offenses subject to fines or a prison sentence of up to one year and which have been criticised for undermining civil liberties and freedom of speech in the country[6]. Nevertheless, Iceland’s Althing (parliament) established the country as an information freedom haven in 2010 as part of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI). The concept was tp make Iceland a “haven for freedom of information, freedom of expression and of speech.” In particular, it was to make Iceland a safe haven for people with Internet servers and hosting online material that their governments might want to shut down[7]. IMMI declared that 2016 would have a “focus on Data Protection since the Snowden revelations, privacy and the protection of data have come to the fore as fundamental issues in the world of communications and technology”[8]. Iceland does still suffer from some minor glimpses into its recent past as a socially conservative country. For example, pornography in general is illegal in Iceland, although the ban is not strongly enforced, and online pornography is not blocked.

Future Trends

Iceland appears intent on continuing its pledge to be a ‘digital safe haven’ for net activists and organizations wishing to be in a net neutral country. However, the country already has data retention laws in place, however restricted, and remains a very small country with limited international muscle. It remains to be seen whether its current online privacy mandate will continue in the coming years.

Our Take

Iceland has a unique take on net neutrality and online privacy, even if flawed. Icelandic citizens must remain vigilant at all times if this protective internet philosophy is to continue.

Interested in other countries? See our Comparison of Internet Privacy Laws page.

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