NRC Handelsblad, 2 Aug 2011: 'Protect civilians, not burglars'
"(...) Like coalition party CDA, its supporting party PVV is also against the idea of imposing fines on companies that put videos and photos of possible perpetrators online. Yet that is now part of state secretary Fred Teeven's (Security and Justice, VVD) plans to amend the Personal Data Protection Act. The Dutch Data Protection Authority (College Bescherming Persoonsgegevens (CBP) will have more power to protect citizens' online privacy, and this is part of it.
Jacob Kohnstamm, director of that CBP, said yesterday that "we can think of a sum of 25,000 euros" as a fine for entrepreneurs who put videos or photo material of possible criminals online. For companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft, these could even be fines of millions: "Neelie Kroes-like" amounts, as he said.
Because Jacob Kohnstamm mentioned those amounts yesterday, they have now become core to the discussion about online privacy. "Criminal fine on assault is lower! Way off," PVV MP Lilian Helder responded on Twitter yesterday.
Absurdly high, employers' organisation MKB-Nederland also calls that 25,000 euros. A spokesman: "A shopkeeper or petrol station owner has already experienced a robbery or burglary, and then has to pay a fine as well when he commits a last-ditch robbery?" Not everywhere the police are now doing enough to catch the offender, says MKB-Nederland. "Apparently, entrepreneurs feel the need to take matters into their own hands. We do not condone entrepreneurs putting videos online, but it is understandable."
In a broader perspective, Teeven's proposals are intended to better protect the online privacy of citizens, not that of suspected perpetrators, which is currently the focus. For example, Teeven also wants a reporting obligation for companies as well as governments if personal data there become public as a result of loss or theft.
Unfortunate, then, that Jacob Kohnstamm wanted to show with his example of protecting criminals that his CBP is getting more teeth to tackle privacy violations, says Vincent Böhre of Privacy First as well. "He would have been better off choosing a topic that makes citizens think, look, the CBP is going to better protect my privacy, not that of burglars."
Privacy organisation Bits of Freedom also sees the issue more broadly. It is important that for once the CBP can really start taking action when citizens' privacy is violated. But: it is not the small shopkeeper, who puts film footage of a single individual online, that is the danger. It is large companies and governments that handle large amounts of personal data carelessly, says Bits of Freedom: "For example, Google is now continuing to store data from wireless modems, which it picks up with its Streetview cars. The impact of that is huge."
In June this year, the Home Owners Association called on homeowners to send in camera footage of burglars. The VEH wanted to publish the images on a site about burglary. But the Dutch Data Protection Authority immediately sent a registered letter stating that this is not allowed."
Source: NRC Handelsblad 2 August 2011, p. 6.