Travel data of dozens of students given to government for fraud check: report

OV_chipkaart_inchecken
. OV Chip card check-in and check-out point. Source: Wikimedia Commons/Roelof88

Public transit card company Translink passed on the travel data of dozens of students to government education service DUO so far this year, the Volkskrant reported on Tuesday. The data is used to check that the students are not claiming higher allowances than their due by saying they no longer live with their parents while they still do. Travelers' organization Maatschappij voor Beter OV feels that DUO is violating privacy rules, according to the newspaper. 

According to Translink, DUO - the enforcement agency for the Ministry of Education - submits "five to ten" requests for such information each week. All requests were granted. According to Translink, DUO said there is a legal basis for this data to be handed over. "DUO is a supervisor and therefore we are legally required to hand over that travel data", a spokesperson for the public transit card company said to the newspaper. 

DUO wanted the information to make sure students aren't abusing the out-living grant. This grant is no longer available to students registered after the study advance was introduced in 2015, but some older students still apply for it. The grant gives students extra money if they no longer live at home with their parents, to cover extra living costs. However, some students claim the grant while they still live with their parents. DUO uses the travel data from Translink to check from which address students travel to their university or college. 

DUO claims that requesting this data is permitted under the General Administrative Law, according to the Volkskrant. But a student caught committing fraud in the manner previously took DUO to court for violating privacy rules. The court ruled in the student's favor, according to the newspaper. The student in question was therefore not fined and did not have to repay the money. 

On Monday the education service could not tell the Volkskrant how many students' travel data was checked. DUO did say that they are careful with the information and work based on a "risk profile". 

Maatschappij voor Beter OV wants the Personal Data Authority to have a look at the situation .According to the organization, "the privacy of public transit users is now on the streets". 

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