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Massive use of ANPR data by tax authorities meets resistance

Last year, it was revealed that the Inland Revenue was massively using police data from Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras over highways to detect tax fraudsters. The Inland Revenue had entered into a secret covenant (agreement) with the police for this purpose. This covenant now appears to have been renewed and extended. As a result, every motorist is automatically in the Inland Revenue's sights.

Under current legislation, only suspicious license plates ("hits") may be retained by the police. All non-suspicious license plates ("no-hits", or the bulk of all motorists) should be deleted immediately. Under the secret covenant, however, the police had a hard disk containing àll ANPR data (hits and no-hits) delivered weekly by courier to the Inland Revenue. Since then, the Inland Revenue has had access to the daily travel behaviour of millions of motorists. After the covenant was made public by a Wob (Public Access Act) request had surfaced Among others, NRC Handelsblad spent last year attention to. However, it then remained silent... until recently a new version of the covenant surfaced. Not through active disclosure from the government, but only after it was again requested by a citizen through a Wob request.

Under the new covenant, ANPR data will no longer be delivered to the Tax Office in weekly packets, but all data will go directly, continuous to the Inland Revenue. As a result, the Inland Revenue gets real-time visibility of the travel behaviour of all motorists filmed by hundreds (in future thousands) of ANPR cameras over Dutch highways.

This is exactly the doomsday scenario that Privacy First has been warning about for years: total control of everyone's travel behaviour through real-time monitoring and profiling. Mass storage of everyone's data for later detection and prosecution, however, is unlawful, so judged the European Court of Justice earlier this year in a landmark ruling on data retention (telecom data retention obligations). Indeed, this constitutes a reversal of the classic principle in a democratic constitutional state: the government may only invade someone's privacy when there is a reasonable suspicion of a concrete criminal offence. The covenant between the police and the Inland Revenue reverses this principle and makes every motorist a potential suspect. This greatly stretches the powers of the Inland Revenue: where the Inland Revenue used to individual Could request ANPR data from police now happens continuously massive, without prior suspicion. The ANPR data can then be used by the tax authorities for years.

The police would not have entered into this covenant if it were not also in their own interests: after all, this creates a huge mountain of ANPR data from which the police (and OM, AIVD, etc.) can draw for years by means of information requests to the tax authorities. So with this covenant, the police are creating a U-turn construction to circumvent their own powers and retention periods. The current controversial bill of minister Opstelten to stretch the ANPR retention period for police (hits as well as no-hits) to 4 weeks has been compared with this peanuts.

Moreover, the covenant is downright undemocratic: at the very least, this should have been preceded by parliamentary debate. That the covenant became known only after an individual Wob request constitutes a slap in the face of the Lower House.

High time, therefore, for a principled discussion and curtailment of such practices. Privacy First's established policy is to take collective privacy violations to court. As long as the Dutch Data Protection Authority (CBP) and the Lower House do not intervene, Privacy First reserves that right also in this case.

Last night, EenVandaag spent careful attention to the covenant. Watch the whole report below, including an interview with Privacy First: