FTI, the largest recycling organization in Sweden, recruited retired police officers to monitor recycling stations that had been hit by dumping of non-recyclable household waste.
The spies became the subject of scrutiny following a controversial decision to prosecute an old woman who put her broken frying pan in the wrong place at a recycling station.
The Swedish Data Inspection Board ruled on Tuesday that the use of digital cameras and computers to take and store photographs of the dumping constituted a breach of data privacy laws.
FTI said it was appealing the decision, but was taking the spies off duty for the time being.
“The Data Inspection Board has carried out a major project, to come to the conclusion that we’re using the wrong camera equipment. It would have been easier, for us and for the Data Inspection Board, if they had just called us up and asked us to use older camera models,” said John Strand, CEO of FTI following the board’s decision.