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Privacy First starts lawsuit against ANPR bill

On 21 November last year, the Senate passed a controversial bill that will put every motorist's travel movements into a central police database for 4 weeks. Privacy First is launching a lawsuit to have this bill declared unlawful for violating the right to privacy.

Massive privacy violation

Standing policy of Privacy First Foundation is to challenge massive privacy violations in court and have them declared unlawful. Privacy First already successfully did so in recent years in the case of the central storage of everyone's fingerprints under the Passport Act and the storage of everyone's communication data under the Telecommunications Retention Act. A current bill that lends itself ideally to such a lawsuit is Minister Grapperhaus' bill on Automatic number plate recognition (automatic number plate recognition, ANPR). Under this bill, the license plates of all cars in the Netherlands (or everyone's travel movements) will be stored for four weeks in a central police database for investigation and prosecution through camera surveillance. Every motorist thereby becomes a potential suspect. This is totally unnecessary, totally disproportionate and also ineffective. The bill therefore violates the right to privacy and is therefore unlawful.

Old bill

The current ANPR bill was already submitted to the House of Representatives in February 2013 by former minister Opstelten. Previously, Justice Minister Hirsch Ballin also planned to submit a similar proposal with a 10-day retention period back in 2010. However, the House of Representatives subsequently declared this proposal controversial. Ministers Opstelten and Van der Steur added three shovels to it in the current bill: 4 weeks of storage of everyone's travel movements. Due to privacy concerns, the parliamentary discussion of this bill was then at a standstill for years, but was then steered through the Lower and Upper Houses after all. However, the bill is long out of date: it has already been overtaken by European case-law which has declared this type of legislation (mass storage of data of innocent citizens) illegal. Moreover, ANPR practice at home and abroad has already shown that mass ANPR storage does not work.


Privacy First will now file a lawsuit (in coalition with other civil society organisations) to have the new ANPR law set aside. To this end, Privacy First has filed a lawsuit via Pro Bono Connect engaged the renowned law firm CMS. The first formal process step was taken yesterday: by letter (PDF), Privacy First asked Minister Grapperhaus (Justice and Security) for consultations ex art. 3:305a BW requested. Should these consultations fail to result in the repeal of the ANPR bill, the sword of Damocles will fall inexorably: Privacy First et al. will then sue the Dutch State in summary proceedings to have the law set aside on the grounds of violation of European privacy law. Given the European and Dutch case law on the matter, Privacy First et al. consider the chances of a successful court case to be extremely high.

Update 20 December 2018: today, the government announced that the ANPR Act will come into force from 1 January 2019. Summary proceedings against the law will take place a.s.a.p. at the District Court of The Hague.