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Civil rights coalition: Senate must reject data surveillance bill 'Super SyRI'

The coalition that earlier won the court case against SyRI is calling on the Senate to reject the even more sweeping data linkage bill WGS. According to the parties, the proposal is on a collision course with the rule of law and the government refuses to learn lessons from the Supplements affair.

The Data Processing by Collaborative Societies Act (WGS) allows data that governments and companies hold on citizens and companies to be brought together in so-called collaborative societies. Government parties and companies in such a partnership are obliged to bring their data together. This should help combat all kinds of crime and offences.

Under the WGS, it is not only factual data shared between companies and authorities, but also signals, suspicions and complete blacklists that are exchanged and interlinked. In the process, these parties can coordinate 'interventions' with each other based on these shadow records in which they take enforcement action against citizens who end up in their crosshairs.

Data surveillance on citizens by governments and companies

To enable mass sharing of personal data between the government and companies, the WGS overrides numerous confidentiality obligations, privacy rights and legal safeguards that have traditionally applied to the processing of personal data. This leads to a "far-reaching, large-scale erosion of the legal protection of citizens", the parties said. "If this bill is passed, the door will be left wide open for the executive branch of government to collaborate with private parties to subject both citizens and companies to arbitrary data surveillance in the form of untargeted data surveillance."

Moreover, the government wants to create the possibility of starting new partnerships in case of 'urgency', without the Chamber being able to consider them. These will only be submitted to the House after their establishment, which will then have to decide whether to adopt them as laws. This violates the Constitution, which requires that breaches of privacy must be included in legislation approved by parliament. The parties find it unacceptable that parliament is not involved in the creation of new partnerships and can only decide on them after they have been established.

Legitimising years of illegal practices

Apart from the possibility of establishing new partnerships, the proposal also includes four partnerships that have been functioning for years but had never been legislated on until now. With the WGS, the government now wants to retrospectively create a legal basis for these.

The parties in the SyRI coalition point out that the court-banned System Risk Indication (SyRI) was also used for years without a legal basis and see strong similarities with the partnerships that the WGS is now meant to legitimise: "Invasive practices involving the processing of personal data in violation of citizens' fundamental rights are rigged up on a trial basis and continued for years, only to be later given a legal basis as a fait accompli. Fundamental rights that should protect citizens from unjustified government action thereby degenerate into obstacles to be taken."

Risk analyses, blacklists and suspicions

The coalition previously wrote that the practices to take place under the WGS resemble in many ways the data processing that preceded the Supplements Affair. Based on secret data analyses, lists of citizens falsely labelled as criminal fraudsters were distributed through various agencies, ruining the personal lives of tens of thousands of families. Under the WGS's collaborative arrangements, risk analyses, blacklists and many other types of data, suspicions and signals about citizens will be able to be shared abundantly between governments and companies. Privacy regulator Personal Data Authority advised the Senate in November 2021 not to adopt the law, stating that the proposal could lead to "Kafkaesque conditions for large numbers of people."

The social coalition against SyRI consists of the Civil Rights Platform, the Dutch Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, FNV, the National Clients' Council, Privacy First, KDVP Foundation and writers Maxim Februari and Tommy Wieringa.

Download the recent letter (pdf) from the coalition to the Senate. See also the publication at on 15 February 2022.