Talking about digi-rooms...
The concept of 'digi-rooms' is rather unclear. But what it seems to be about: physical spaces of the police, in which they online trying to track criminal cases. Officers are surfing around there groggily (and wondering why they couldn't do it from home.) In Rotterdam, it seems to be successful. Privacy First got the microphone at a conference on this, and declared itself "nuanced against". Below is a report on the meeting.
A conference on 'Online Content Moderation' was organised on 15 June. Organised by three parties: the Ministry of Justice and Security, ECP (Platform for the Information Society) and the CCV (Centre for Crime Prevention and Safety).
The day opened with lectures by Kees Verhoeven (former MP for D'66) and Michiel Steltman (of ECP). Minister Yesilgöz was present online.
The day was meant to be a brainstorming session for various stakeholders, who collectively online crime should tackle. 'New' in the approach was inviting critical thinkers, in the form of a panel at a preliminary stage. It also emerged that tackling online crime is complex. Questions such as: 'Who is competent? (e.g. mayor, police, prosecutor) and when is there competence at all?
The question that always remains: there are implementing laws (with powers) and there are fundamental rights. The two are getting further and further apart. How do you reconcile them?
Preventive crime control
Online content is identified (by police, municipalities and higher authorities) as a phenomenon that deserves attention, and one of the brainstorming sessions considered the extent to which 'preventive crime control' is legitimate.
The idea here: preventing potential crime when there was no actual criminal offence, but it was already clear that dubious content had been shared on the internet. With child pornography, it is clear that it is a criminal offence and you have to intervene. But what about a 'stop conversation' with a protester? Who may not even have actually demonstrated yet?
Attention to fundamental rights
Ideas about stop calls at demonstrations were very mixed. While municipalities and police thought stop talk was a good intervention, Privacy First Foundation, represented by the board, raised concerns about it.
What about the fundamental right to demonstrate? Can you apply a preventive crime model to cases that are not (yet) crimes, but rather fundamental rights? And what about the data found through online research? Plus lots of other questions.
Panel discussion on digi-rooms
Later in the afternoon, there was a panel discussion on digi-rooms. There were also workshops on online content moderation. Privacy First Foundation was invited to a panel on one of the projects.
Despite a brief explanation from the police about digi-rooms, the moderator started by asking, "Ever heard of it?" Until then, nothing had been shared about it. But apparently this project is already running successfully for the Rotterdam Rijnmond police, with hopes of rolling it out nationwide.
With TOOI (Team Public Order Intelligence) in mind, the secret police units whose legal basis is as yet unclear, and which were there just all of a sudden, Privacy First firmly questioned the legal framework of "the digi-rooms: they may be harmless, and we understand your enthusiasm, but it does not seem good for public confidence that they are there just all of a sudden.
Questions were also raised - including by Privacy First - about the (legal) need for these digi-rooms. The idea is that police officers go to an office to conduct criminal or preventive criminal investigations on the internet, and record what they find. The legal basis for this (Section 3 Police Act or 126j Criminal Procedure) is very thin.
Privacy First also asked about safeguards and protocols. Prompted by the fear of profiling. Our questionnaire was endless, but time was limited.
The panel was about 50-50 in favour and against the digi-chambers. But it did become clear that there is still a lot to be done before they can be legitimately rolled out.
Fortunately, the police are open to further discussion on this, as they too recognise that you need to proceed carefully if you want to introduce digi-rooms structurally.