Limburgs Dagblad, 10 Jan 2012: 'Big Brother at Bocholtz'
"The introduction of a camera system at Dutch border crossings has been delayed. The system will now be introduced from this summer.
On the German side in particular, digital storage of license plates is not appreciated.
Free movement for people and goods. That's what the Schengen Agreement promised not so long ago.
But throwing open the borders indefinitely turns out to have quite a few negative consequences and so the Dutch government has come up with something.
Schengen has gained a security buddy: @migo.
Not heard of @migo before?
It is a camera system at 15 border crossings in the Netherlands - most of them in Limburg - that records cross-border traffic. License plates are checked in a database, and the military police can respond immediately in case of irregularities. Cost of the system: some 19 million euros.
Without too much fuss, the cameras were tested in the mid-1990s and last year permanently hung over the highways, including at the Aachen-Heerlen border crossing.
But then German citizens - on their way to home improvement, family, business associates or friends - came across the cameras. And the German citizens turned out to be not amused.
The vision of doom that George Orwell painted in his book Nineteen Eighty- Four seems to have become reality.
Wherever you go, the government sees everything. Big Brother is watching you in the Netherlands.
The German media jumped on it and the government too demanded clarification.
At the European Commission, the legal underpinnings of the detection system were particularly challenged. After all, how does it relate to the free movement of people and goods enshrined in the Schengen Agreement?
Is there no invasion of privacy? Are there any guarantees? How long will images of me and my car remain in the system?
Real answers to the questions were lacking.
On 1 January, the cameras were supposed to start humming, but as of last Friday, that turns out not to be the case after all. The detection system will not be introduced until next summer.
Minister Gerd Leers (CDA, Immigration, Integration and Asylum), who announced the postponement, has since promised that the new cameras would be used for a maximum of six hours a day and 90 hours a month. Long-term storage of images would not take place. So it will basically be spot checks.
Whether the Germans and the rest of Europe will be satisfied with that is unclear. What is clear is that they will not be close friends of @migo.
* @migo stands for Mobile Information Controlled Action.
The camera system would be used by the military police only for supervision of the Aliens Act.
* After proceedings, an investigative journalist found out that the project's tender stated that @migo "should be extended to full-scale supervision.
* Secret documents show that there are legions of possibilities for other uses of the system.
'Breach of privacy'
Monitoring borders with a camera system, as minister Gerd Leers (pictured) wants, raises questions. According to the Privacy First foundation, the standard recording of license plates violates the law. 'You are only allowed to infringe on privacy when a crime is suspected.'
The European Commission has since asked the minister a number of questions."
Source: Limburgs Dagblad, Jan 10, 2012, p. 2.