MPs critical of using telecom data to track coronavirus

Transmission mast
Transmission mastPolitie

Parliamentarians from the D66, ChristenUnie and SP are critical of an emergency law that will give health institute RIVM access to transmission mast data in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus. D66 MP Kees Verhoeven is not convinced that this population tracking is necessary, he said to the Telegraaf.

State Secretary Mona Keijzer of Economic Affairs presented the temporary emergency law on Friday. With the law, the government can oblige telecom providers to give up transmission mast data. This data will be made anonymous, and the RIVM can then use it to see, for example, whether large groups of people from one municipality went to another municipality. The idea is that this can help better map the spread of the coronavirus if there is an outbreak somewhere.

Verhoeven called this emergency law a "rather coarse way" to track people's movement. "Basically, we get the location data of everyone's phones. That is very drastic. And that ends up in the hands of the government. I find that a very unpleasant thought," he said to the newspaper.

ChristenUnie MP Eppo Bruins thinks that letting this law apply for a year is too long. "For me, this situation remains the temporary abnormal, and not the new normal," he said to the Telegraaf, though he added that he sees the necessity of the law.

SP MP Frank Futselaar wants to know exactly what the government's purpose with this law is. "That does not seem so much to follow the virus, but mainly to check whether people adhere to corona restrictions, or whether they need to be tightened. I have questions about that."

The Dutch data protection authority AP is still considering the emergency law, though chairman Aleid Wolfsen previously criticized the idea behind it. "This is about the privacy of all Dutch people, and participation is not voluntary," he said. "Whether you have a smartphone or a 20-year-old mobile phone: you participate, you cannot refuse. There is nowhere to to turn it off or refuse to install an app. That is why extra care is required."