Government's anti-fraud system an invasion of citizens' privacy, court rules

Scales of justice and gavel on law book
Scales of justice and gavel on law bookPhoto: tomloel/DepositPhotos

The current legislation that regulates the government's anti-fraud program System Risk Indication (SyRI) must be scrapped, the court in The Hague ruled on Wednesday. The Work and Income Implementation Organization Act, which regulates the use of SyRI, is in violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It is difficult to supervise and does not sufficiently respect citizens' privacy, the court ruled, NOS reports.

SyRI is used to prevent and combat social security fraud. That is in the interest of economic wellbeing, the judge said, because fraud affects solidarity and public support for the State. But, the judge added, here there is no "fair balance" between the social interest and the violation of privacy, as is required by the European Court of Human Rights. The legislation is insufficiently clear and verifiable. There is no transparency on how data is processed and analyzed. That can "unintentionally" lead to "discriminatory and/or stigmatizing effects", the judge said. 

The court said that the State should definitely exploit new technological options to prevent and combat fraud, but must find the right balance between the benefits of these technological advances and citizens' right to privacy. 

SyRI is an initiative of the Ministry of Social Affairs. The lawsuit against it was filed by the lawyers' committee for human rights NJCM, the Platform for the Protection of Civil Rights, Privacy First, and foundation KDVP. 

This lawsuit prompted government party D66 to propose that the use of "far-reaching" algorithms and facial recognition technology within the government be regulated. And that until regulations are in place, these technologies - including SyRI - should not be used.