Algemeen Dagblad, 30 November 2015: 'New law opens all computers to police'
“Privacy watchdogs and icts alarmed
A new draft law gives police far-reaching powers to hack into computers. Privacy watchdogs and ICT experts think the law goes much too far. "The Paris attacks are being used to introduce a police state."
Just before the weekend started, the council of ministers quickly threw out an important press release last Friday afternoon. Ministers Ard van der Steur (Security and Justice) and Ronald Plasterk (Interior) submitted four bills from the action programme Integral approach to Jihadism to the House of Representatives. The measures to combat Jihadism are of great importance, the government underlines.
Part of those measures includes an extension of the powers to investigate in computers of criminals and terrorists. The name of the bill is not mentioned in the press release, but when asked, the Ministry of Security and Justice confirms that it is the Computer Crime III Act, which has been in the pipeline since 2013. With support from VVD and PvdA, the controversial law can count on a majority in the Lower House. But those parties will need other parties to push the law through the Upper House.
The draft law gives the police unprecedented powers. It may secretly break into computers, copy, add and delete data. The police may watch from webcams, eavesdrop through a computer's microphone and watch live what someone types. They may even break into innocent third parties' homes to get to a suspect. Privacy organisation Bits of Freedom speaks of the world's most far-reaching law in this area.
As a result, the draft law drew dozens of concerned responses from professors, ict practitioners and privacy watchers. And even now criticism is heard. "A government that is allowed to break into systems and computers in order to obtain information is treading on thin ice," believes chairman Lotte de Bruijn of industry association Nederland ICT. ,,Suppose the police had the right to access homes without permission, would we accept that? Even if it meant they could eavesdrop on suspicious neighbours? I don't think so."
Others object that the government benefits from software leaks in order to get into other people's computers. "If the government finds out that there is a leak in commonly used software, it can keep it secret so that the police can abuse that leak first. By doing so, the minister makes the whole society more insecure, instead of safer," says Rejo Zenger of Bits of Freedom.
Zenger does not think it is chic that the bill is being presented to the House now in the context of combating terrorism. "It is absolutely inappropriate for the Security and Justice Minister to use the Paris attacks to push through his bill. The minister has long wanted to expand police powers. That deserves a thorough debate in parliament, without being very much driven by the events in Paris." Privacy First's president Bas Filippini even called the measures bludgeoning the rule of law to death. "After the Paris attacks, brats aged between 20 and 30 are being hunted down. Instead of police and intelligence agencies being ashamed that they did not have a better eye on these men, the Netherlands is proposing to keep 16 million citizens under wraps. A police state, we should not want to go there.""
Source: Algemeen Dagblad 30 November 2015, p. 5. Also published in AD/Rotterdams Dagblad, AD/Haagsche Courant, AD/Utrechts Nieuwsblad, AD/Amersfoortse Courant, AD/De Dordtenaar, AD/Groene Hart, AD/Rivierenland, BN/De Stem, Dagblad Tubantia/Twentsche Courant, De Stentor/Gelders Dagblad, De Gelderlander, Eindhovens Dagblad, Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant and online at http://www.ad.nl/ad/nl/1012/Nederland/article/detail/4198274/2015/11/30/Nieuwe-wet-opent-alle-computers-voor-politie.dhtml.
Read HERE Privacy First's earlier criticism of this draconian bill.