Nederlands Dagblad, 9 Jan 2012: 'Controversial digital control at border to be introduced later'
“The system that records number plates at the border will be introduced later. Critics fear for citizens' privacy and think the government is backtracking.
The introduction of a new camera system at Dutch border crossings has been delayed. The Royal Netherlands Marechaussee's detection system, known by the remarkable name @migo-boras, was supposed to read in the registration plates of all passing cars and store them digitally from this year. The system is now likely to be introduced only from this summer.
This is according to a letter from Immigration Minister Gerd Leers (CDA) that he sent to the House of Representatives late last year. Leers further promised in his letter that the new cameras would be used for a maximum of six hours a day and 90 hours a month. However, recently released documents, published on the website Sargasso, show that this was not the original plan for the camera surveillance. The reports show that the detection system, which cost some 19 million euros to develop, was designed to continuously record passing vehicles. The system would also alert the military police if the system detects a suspicious travel pattern of a particular vehicle. 'The government is backtracking,' judges human rights lawyer Vincent Böhre (32), who works at Privacy First, a foundation that advocates citizens' privacy. 'The minister is afraid of being knocked back by the European Commission in Brussels.' In November, following complaints from Germany about the introduction of vehicle registration at the border, Brussels sent a letter of questions to the minister. Leers has yet to respond to this letter.
According to Böhre, the minister's plan "puts the axe to the Schengen Treaty", the European treaty that guarantees the free movement of people in Europe. The treaty also abolished border posts between EU countries. That permanent border control is now coming back this way, Böhre believes. 'In my opinion, the system violates the Schengen Treaty. The minister lacks legislation to introduce such border controls.' According to the minister, there are 'no provisions on camera surveillance' in the Schengen treaty. By recording vehicles that regularly cross the border, the military police can gain insight into entry and exit patterns. This would help in combating human smuggling, for example. The new cameras will be installed at the 15 largest border crossings with Belgium and Germany.
Jaap-Henk Hoepman, a researcher in computer security and privacy at Radboud University in Nijmegen, has his doubts about the purposes of the new camera system. 'I am surprised that it is being introduced. Normally, the military police select suspicious cars crossing the border. Now everyone is registered as a potential suspect. I find that quite a worrying development. It is not clear to me how the system will work soon and how long the information will be kept. There is legislation in the pipeline so that the police can store car registration numbers digitally for a maximum of four weeks, but I don't know if that also applies to this system.' In addition, it is possible that the functions of @migo-boras will be expanded in the future, both privacy experts suspect. Hoepman: 'You see that so often. When an information system is built with a specific purpose, it is later decided to do other things with it. And the documents released show that the system was built to measure at any time.' Böhre feels that because of the registration, 'the good suffer under the bad'. 'You are only allowed to invade privacy when a crime is suspected. So Leers' proposal, which does not involve permanent registration, cannot pass muster either.'"
Source: Nederlands Dagblad, 9 Jan 2012.