Domestic Administration, 5 January 2015: 'Little support for data retention bill'
“An internet consultation on the draft bill for the enforcement of retention obligations by telecom providers has attracted mostly criticism.
The digital traffic data of citizens using telephony or internet communications have been collected and stored for years for investigation purposes. That is shooting a gun at a gnat, the European Court ruled, but minister Opstelten does not want to scrap the controversial retention obligation for telecom and internet providers and only sees something in an adjustment. Only data access will be subject to stricter rules. The draft bill to this end was open for comment until 31 December in a internet consultation, and the reactions (of which 53 are public) do not lie.
Civil rights movement Bits of Freedom (BoF) believes that the draft bill in no way solves the fundamental problems of the law. First of all, this is 'the long-term and unfocused storage of data on the communication behaviour and geographical location of mainly unsuspicious Dutch citizens'. Because very intimate details about the user, such as their social network, cultural background, sexual preferences, geographical location, interests, social, political and religious views, and sometimes also someone's financial and medical history, can be retrieved there, the law thus 'violates various fundamental rights of all Dutch citizens, including the right to respect for privacy, the right to the protection of personal data and the right to freedom of expression. One of the conditions set by the European Convention on Human Rights for such infringements is that such an infringement must be necessary in a democratic society. However, this necessity has never been demonstrated.'
Government weakest link
The Dutch Hosting Provider Association (DHPA, the club of internet service providers) says: 'Should the bill be passed in this form, it will create a feeling among all citizens that their private lives are under constant surveillance. In short, the government appears to be the weakest link in the chain of parties storing and processing personal data of data subjects. This damages trust in the online economy, threatening one of the few sectors in the Netherlands showing healthy growth. An illustration of this effect is an analysis of the damage to business in the United States due to the careless actions of that government.' The sector is quite willing to cooperate with the government in other ways, says the DHPA, and thus finds it 'regrettable that your ministry is not making sufficient use of the hand outstretched several times by the sector, to explore effective solutions together for detection as well, which do justice to trust and the protection of privacy.'
The Dutch Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights, the Privacy First Foundation and the Dutch Association of Journalists (NVJ), through the same law firm, responded: 'The bill does not change the practice of retaining data of all telecommunications citizens, including those in whom there is no indication that their behaviour is related to serious crime. This will perpetuate the ongoing major invasion of privacy.' Also, the law is too unclear and the retention periods are too long."