On July 12, the Dutch Senate passed a law giving intelligence agencies far-reaching surveillance and other powers, including the authority to gather data from large groups of people at once.
The legislation, which lawmakers in the Netherlands’ upper house passed by a large majority, gives the intelligence service AIVD and its military equivalent MIVD extensive powers for monitoring online activity and collecting data. Currently, Dutch citizens’ computers, phones and tablets can only be hacked when intelligence agencies suspect their owners of a crime. Under the new law, a person can also be hacked if someone they know is suspected of a crime.
According to the Dutch Minister of Interior Ronald Plasterk, “modernizing” the law was required to protect national security and shield high-tech business and government from cyber attacks.
However, Dutch online rights watchdogs have expressed concern that under the new law the Netherlands’ spy agencies might use tapping powers without proper oversight. Even before the introduction of the new legislation, the American whistleblower Edward Snowden had dubbed the Dutch “the Surveillance Kings of Europe.” With the new rules coming into effect January 1, 2018, opportunities for abusing the surveillance powers will become even more abundant.
Digital rights group Bits of Freedom warned the Dutch military and civil intelligence agencies will now have the opportunity to “systematically conduct mass surveillance of the internet,” without being required to give clear reasons and with limited oversight.
The ‘tapping’ bill was first circulated in 2015 when it was put out for public consultation and attracted fierce criticism. While it faced relatively little opposition in politics, the resistance in society was much greater. Civil rights organizations, the Council for the Courts of Justice, the Dutch Association for Journalists, the Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) and the Council of State all criticized the data mining law.
Some amendments were made after the initial outcry but, apparently, not enough. Right after the legislation was passed, twelve Dutch organization, including the Public Interest Litigation Project, civil rights group Privacy First and the Dutch Association of Journalists, formed an alliance and filed a lawsuit to put a stop to the implementation of the law. The case will first be presented to a Dutch court, who will test it against the European Convention of Human Rights.
Taking into consideration the growing surveillance powers, it is important to take safety measures on your own, no matter if you live in the Netherlands or in any other corner of the world. A reliable way to protect your personal information from both cyber criminals and unwanted monitoring is to use a VPN service whenever you go online. Make sure to choose a VPN service provider that respects your privacy and keeps no logs of your Internet activity, like NordVPN.