Cabinet plots digital trawl expeditions
For a few days now, there has been justifiable uproar over two new cabinet plans that have far-reaching implications for privacy. The first is a Minister Leers' plan (CDA) to start drawing up automatic risk profiles of every airline passenger from now on. Before you go on a business trip or holiday, for example, you will then get a green, yellow, orange or red flag after your name. Without your knowledge. Not if surprise party, but because you might be a dangerous terrorist in the eyes of this administration. At Schiphol Airport, you will then hopefully be allowed to walk through the fast gate for people with green flags. If you have a different flag, you will be taken apart, thoroughly checked and questioned and may miss your plane. The bill has not yet been sent to Parliament, but the government is already starting to build the associated central infrastructure (PARDEX). This is how democratic the Netherlands is in 2012.
The second plan comes from State Secretary for Social Affairs De Krom (VVD). In terms of privacy protection, De Krom appears to be just as hard-nosed: his idea is to compile extensive profiles of all benefit recipients from now on, using all possible databases that can be linked to the Municipal Personal Records Database (GBA). Should there be a digital glitch somewhere in your profile, you will immediately appear on the radar of a central control room, a kind of Central Command of benefits. It is then up to you to prove that something is wrong with your profile, otherwise you may lose your benefits.
Both proposals revolve around profiling: creating and maintaining detailed risk profiles of ordinary citizens. In an ocean of information 99% from innocent people, Leers and De Krom hope to fish out the 1% (potential) troublemakers. (Recall 'The One Percent Doctrine' by Dick Cheney?) Or in other words, an inversion of the classic principle that the government may only invade your privacy upon reasonable suspicion of a criminal offence. By profiling after all, everyone is treated a priori as a (potential) suspect. The right to privacy thus becomes effectively illusory.
Last night a discussion on this took place on the radio programme Nearby Netherlands (NTR, Radio 5). Besides Privacy First's Vincent Böhre, two experts took part in the conversation: criminologist Marianne van den Anker (formerly alderman for security at Liveable Rotterdam) and Marc Jacobs (author and former police commissioner). The entire discussion can be viewed at HERE listen back (from 17m48s).