Privacy watchdog critical of Dutch plans for a digital sex worker registry
The Dutch Cabinet's plan to register sex workers in the Netherlands will not actually improve the position of those workers, but will in fact worsen their situation, the Dutch Data Protection Authority (AP) warned on Wednesday. The privacy regulator advised the government "not to proceed with the bill unless it is better substantiated."
The Cabinet's proposal would allow municipalities to soon oblige sex workers to register their personal data, and to require businesses operating in the space to force their workers to do the same. The Cabinet said the idea behind their plan is to make it possible to more effectively combat human trafficking.
The Dutch Data Protection Authority said that the opposite could actually happen. Sex workers would wind up plying their trade underground "for fear of registration and loss of privacy." As a result, they would fall out of view of authorities, and can then become victims "of exploitation and other abuses, including human trafficking," the AP said.
"The bill does not address this threatening adverse effect," the AP continued. It argued that politicians spearheading the bill are required to address the issue under European Union laws governing both fundamental rights and data protection.
"Surely it cannot be that sex workers may soon be worse off, even as a result of government policy?" said Monique Verdier, the vice-chair of the Dutch Data Protection Authority. "If sex workers feel forced to enter the unregulated industry due to the registration of their data, they can end up in unsafe situations," she stated, adding that this could lead to more victims of human trafficking. "The bill therefore threatens to defeat its own purpose," Verdier wrote in a statement.
"The Cabinet must be clearer about how this bill will help sex workers. And what the Cabinet will do to prevent, or at least limit, adverse effects."
Another problem for the AP is that each municipality will soon have to decide for itself what they want to do. "In practice, confusion can arise, with one municipality thinking it is allowed to register sex workers, and the other not. The Cabinet must provide municipalities with more clarity," said Verdier.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times