Communications provider

Communications providers are operators with services that are based on the confidential transmission of communications, for example, within a certain electronic service. Due to its duties, a communications provider must often process messages and traffic data to be able to provide functioning services and clarify any faults or disturbances. The Information Society Code contains provisions on the communications providers' right to process data and obliges them to ensure information security of their services.

Communications providers include:

Other electronic communications providers are a new group of operators that became subject to information security and data protection regulation in the Information Society Code as of the beginning of 2015. As a result of this, the regulation of privacy and ensuring information security in electronic communications covers all communications providers as their role in the protection of confidential communications is crucial.

Examples of services by other communications providers

Other communications providers mean all such operators acting as communications providers corresponding to telecommunications operators in relation to users. They are external third parties in relation to users that communicate with each other through the service. Transmitting confidential communications does not need to be the only purpose of the service, or even its main purpose, in order for the operations to be subject to regulation. In fact, in several services the transmission of confidential communications is just one feature among many.

An operator providing the following services, for example, may be a communications provider:

  • Dating services including a communication feature between users;
  • Communication solutions for schools enabling communication between parents and teachers, for instance;
  • Services for sports teams and clubs enabling sending notifications to members or communication between parents and coaches, for instance;
  • WLAN services for a limited set of users, such as WLAN networks in individual cafés.

The obligations imposed in the Information Society Code cover naturally only the part of the service involving transmission of confidential communications. For example, a possibility for users to communicate with each other in online dating services is just one feature of the service. Providing a discussion feature within an online dating service is transmission of communications, and its confidentiality and security is guaranteed by the new regulation.

Schools often use services which enable teachers to send messages to parents, or vice versa. Parties providing and maintaining such services are communications providers. Communications providers also include operators providing sports clubs and teams with solutions or services enabling sending of notifications or communications between the members of the team, or for instance, between parents and the coach.

WLAN services for a limited set of users, such as WLAN services provided by individual cafés are also considered as communications providers. The provision of extensive WLAN services, such as services with an extensive coverage area provided by cities, may also be regarded as general telecommunications which are subject to obligations concerning telecommunications, too.

Operators providing network messages or publications, or engaging in publication operations are not considered to be communications providers. An operator providing an online public discussion forum, for example, is not a communications provider. Transmission of communications for personal or private purposes is not subject to the provisions of the Information Society Code, either. This means, for example, WLAN base stations provided by households that are used only among the residents and occasional visitors.

Communications providers' obligations

Communications providers must maintain the information security of messages, traffic data and location data. The general obligation to maintain information security is provided in section 247 of the Information Society Code. The processing of traffic data is regulated in Chapter 17 of the Information Society Code.

A communications provider may process the communications transmitted by it and related traffic data only in situations specified in the Act. The restrictions of the processing rights safeguard the confidentiality in electronic communications and protection of the users' privacy. The processing principles and related obligations are specified exhaustively in the Act, which means that it is not allowed to use traffic data in any other purposes.

Processing of traffic data

Key words: Information security, Communications provider, Telecommunications, Telecommunications operator, Traffic data

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