MPs want confidentiality over their WhatsApps, emails

WhatsApp logo (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Юкатан, WhatsApp Media)WhatsApp logo (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Юкатан, WhatsApp Media)

A majority of the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, is in favor of a legislative amendment that would extend confidentiality to also apply to parliamentarians' digital communications, such as WhatsApp messages and emails. The government submitted the proposed amendment in 2014, and the Tweede Kamer debated it on Wednesday, reports.

In te current law of confidentiality specifically refers to telephone conversations, telegraph messages and letters. If the change is implemented, it will refer to telecommunications. The idea is that referring to simply "telecommunications" would make the law future proof. 

The majority of the Kamer agrees that the law needs to be updated. "The current law is hopelessly outdated, we all agree with that", Sven Koopmans of the VVD said. He thinks the best way to get this amendment passed is to keep it "sober and neutral" and not to add anything to it.

This did not stop D66 parliamentarian Kees Verhoeven from calling for an amendment to the proposal. He wants the legislative amendment to state that confidentiality can only be breached if it is "necessary to protect national security". It currently says that confidentiality can only be breached "in the interest of national security". He believes that the distinction between the words "interest" and "necessary" will make sure that confidentiality is not breached as long as other methods of investigation are possible. 

Minister Ronald Plasterk of Home Affairs did not seem very enthusiastic with this change - he discouraged Verhoeven's motion, reports.

GroenLinks parliamentarian Nevin Ozutuk wants the amendment to still mention letters separately, so that a court still has to give consent for breaching confidentiality for physical post. With the amendment as it now stands, the court does not have to give permission for breaching confidentiality for each specific form of communication, just communication as a whole. 

SP MP Ronald van Raak wants the amendment to state that the court has to give permission for each form of communication that will be breached.

When exactly parliament will vote on this amendment is unclear. According to, the Kamer will probably wait for a new government to be formed before voting on this.