Investigation regarding Swiss Pass

At the end of 2015, we carried out an investigation into the ‘Swiss Pass’ issued by the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) and the Swiss Public Transport Union (SPTU). We concluded that the data processing that occurs when tickets are checked is neither proportionate nor founded on an adequate statutory basis. We have consequently issued a recommendation to the SPTU and the SBB regarding rectification of the established failings.

The SBB and the SPTU advised us of the Swiss Pass project on 3 March 2015 - a week before informing the media. This prior information presented the most important aspects of the project. Since 1 August 2015, all GA and half-fare travelcards are being gradually replaced by the Swiss Pass. The new card also offers access to partner services such as Mobility Carsharing, Publibike, SchweizMobil and certain ski resorts.

At the end of 2015, we conducted an investigation into the SwissPass and related data processing procedures. In particular, we looked at the database of conducted checks and ascertained the following:

As soon as a GA or half-fare travelcard is purchased, the customer's data is fed into the central customer and travelcard database (KUBA). When carrying out a control, the ticket inspector scans the Swiss Pass by placing it on a reading device containing a local copy of the travelcard data. The identity data, travelcard type and card validity (valid, partially valid, invalid) are displayed on the screen of the reading device. The checked data, including the time, train and route number and the link to the Swiss Pass ID number, are then uploaded to a separate database and stored there for 90 days.

The SBB was commissioned by the SPTU to cultivate the market and manage the Swiss Pass databases, and it is also responsible for dealing with requests for information. Customer data and performance data are also used for marketing purposes, unless the customer expressly opts out. The checked data are not used for marketing purposes or passed onto third parties.

As a result of our investigations we came to the conclusion that the processing of the data in the database of conducted checks is neither proportionate nor founded on an adequate statutory basis. Consequently, we recommended that the SPTU and the SBB should immediately delete all checked data and shut down this database. We also proposed improvements to the formulation of the terms and conditions of the GA and half-fare travelcard that will ensure that the information on the use of data for marketing purposes and on opting out is appropriately and clearly given.

On 4 January 2016, we sent our final report to the SPTU and the SBB. They accepted our recommendation and the suggestions for improvements. We will observe how these are being implemented before the end of this year.