Algemeen Dagblad, 19 February 2015: 'Big Brother knows who you call and for how long'
"A familiar melody from a telephone blares through the courtroom in The Hague. ''This is being recorded, you understand,'' the judge jokes. He is right. Telecom providers are required by law to keep all phone records for 1 year so that a prosecutor can retrieve who called whom and when. The content of the calls or text messages is not kept, but the caller's number, the duration of the call and the location is. Just like IP addresses used on the internet.
And that has to stop, say privacy advocates, who took the state to court yesterday. Because the government knows a lot more about us. Cameras over the highway record where we drive. Not only do the police use that data to catch spotted crooks, the tax authorities are also watching. For instance, the tax authorities check whether lease car drivers obey the rules. Under this government, the SyRI system was also introduced. To catch benefit fraudsters, data from municipalities, benefit agency UWV and the Tax Authority, among others, are linked.
The cabinet wants to go even further. Opstelten plans to store the locations of all license plates for 4 weeks, so that investigators can trace the movements of suspects. A parliamentary majority is in favour of this. So is Minister Plasterk's plan to give secret services more possibilities to tap mobile phones.
It is all going way too far for privacy advocates. For a start, telecom companies should immediately stop storing phone data, think Privacy First foundation, lawyers and journalists, among others, They filed a summary proceedings against the state yesterday.
The Dutch law stems from a European directive, which was annulled by the European Court last year. Storing data of all citizens is too great an invasion of privacy. The Council of State and the Dutch Data Protection Authority are also critical.
The government is already working on a new data retention obligation, with a magistrate judge to decide on access to phone data. But until then, the state refuses to lift the current retention obligation. Otherwise, criminals and terrorists will escape punishment, the judiciary argues.
Privacy advocates fear misuse of the data. The data can already be requested about a bicycle theft suspect without a judge. "It is a very heavy tool to collect so much information from non-suspect Dutch citizens. The importance of detection does not outweigh this," said Florian Overkamp of telecom company SpeakUp."
Source: Algemeen Dagblad, 19 February 2015.