CBS Had Access to T-Mobile Customers location For Years

The Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) had access to traceable location data of T-Mobile customers for years, NRC reports based on its own research. The Telecom Agency, supported by the Dutch Data Protection Authority, will investigate whether Statistics Netherlands and T-Mobile have violated the law.

Statistics Netherlands employees analyzed location data of mobile callers at T-Mobile's head office in The Hague from January 2018. Statistics Netherlands was working on an algorithm that can be used to measure the mobility and residence behavior of Dutch people based on location data from one telecom provider. The collaboration between Statistics Netherlands and T-Mobile lasted until April last year.

Both parties informed the outside world that Statistics Netherlands only received anonymous data from T-Mobile. T-Mobile customers were not told that the company was investigating with Statistics Netherlands whether money could be made from their location data.

From documents that NRC received by means of an appeal to the Government Information (Public Access) Act, it appears that Statistics Netherlands employees at T-Mobile had access to non-anonymised location data. According to the Telecom Agency, both parties never reported that Statistics Netherlands had this access and it is reason for an investigation.

Statistics Netherlands said in a response that five employees at T-Mobile conducted research with "pseudonymised personal data". This concerned traffic data with the unique IMSI numbers removed from telephones. However, this still concerns personal data, according to the Dutch Data Protection Authority, since they can still be linked to persons by means of additional data. T-Mobile also acknowledges that Statistics Netherlands employees worked with pseudonymised data. However, according to the provider, these are not personal data.

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