Changes to data mining law "mostly cosmetic", privacy group says

Data theft
stock photostock photo

The government's plans on how to change the new law for the Dutch intelligence services after a majority voted against it in a referendum, leaked on Thursday night. The changes are "mostly cosmetic" and don't do justice the results of the advisory referendum, according to privacy organization Bits of Freedom, NOS reports.

The leaked documents show that the law, officially called the Intelligence and Security law but also referred to as the Big Data- or data mining law by opponents, will remain the same at its core. The Dutch intelligence services MIVD and AIVD will get the power to tap, store and analyze phone and internet data on a large scale. 

The four government parties agreed to make the following changes, according to RTL Nieuws. The law will explicitly state that the Dutch services can only exchange information with other countries if a "weighing note" has been made. That is a consideration that states how the foreign services deal with democracy, human rights and privacy. That was already agreed, but will now be explicitly stated. The data mining function must be used as directed as possible. The maximum retention period for data remains three years, but an extension must be requested each year. There will be better protection for medical data and journalistic sources.

"If this report is correct, it looks like mainly cosmetic changes to us", Hans de Zwart, director of Bits of Freedom, said to NOS. "The essence of the problem, namely that information about innocent civilians will come into the services' view on a large scale, is not resolved."

The Amsterdam students that initiated the referendum on the law are also disappointed. "A lot of our criticism was ignored", Luca van der Kamp said to RTL Nieuws. "And in other areas the law does not change much. For example, the fact that the data mining function must be used as directed as possible is not new. The possibility of using this function remains. As far as we are concerned, this should not be possible."

Van der Kamp and his fellow students will continue to protest. "There are still steps we can take, but what these are concretely, is not yet known. We will at least inform people how they can better protect themselves. And there are still ongoing lawsuits against the law. We support them."

The amendments will be discussed in the Council of Ministers on Friday. The Intelligence and Security Law will be implemented on May 1st. 


Related stories