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Successful referendum strengthens lawsuit against Sleep Act

Dutch people reject new Intelligence and Security Services Act. This law must now be amended. If not, a court case will follow.

Historic streak in the sand

Wednesday 21 March 2018 is a historic day: for the first time in history, a national population voted by referendum against a law on the secret services. In this referendum, the Dutch population was allowed to vote on the new Intelligence and Security Services Act, known as the Sleep Act. It is now known that an overwhelming majority is AGAINST this law. Privacy First considers this a historic victory and hopes that this will lead to a snowball effect in other countries, against the development towards control societies, against mass surveillance and in favour of better legislation that does respect the freedom of innocent citizens.

Objections to the Sleep Act

Privacy First's main objections to the Sleep Act focus on the law's new possibilities to massively tap the internet traffic and communications of innocent citizens, store this data for years and even exchange it unseen with foreign secret services. These and other objections by Privacy First stand HERE listed alphabetically. Moreover, the freedom-restricting Sleep Act does not stand alone but is part of a broader negative trend, according to this recent column From Privacy First chairman Bas Filippini.

Successful referendum

From the very first moment, Privacy First has supported the creation of the referendum against the Sleep Act. Besides Privacy First, numerous other civil society organisations were also fully active in recent months to critically inform the public about the Sleep Act. However, most of the work was done by the initiators behind the referendum themselves: the UvA students who collected enough signatures in late 2017 to make this referendum possible. For this unique achievement, Privacy First awarded a Dutch Privacy Award out to them. Privacy First also recently sent all local political parties across the Netherlands called to take a stand against the Sleep Act. We have also been active as much as possible to generate critical mass through interviews on radio, television, newspapers, participation in public debates, our own advertisements and social media. Privacy First also organised a critical public debate on the Sleep Act in Amsterdam with several prominent speakers, including our lawyer Otto Volgenant and National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security Dick Schoof. This debate was broadcast several times by NPO Politiek and can also be found online at our website and YouTube. Even according to supporters of the Sleep Act, this referendum was characterised by good substantive discussions and a keenly informed, critical public. In that sense, too, this referendum is a great success, a celebration of democracy and of Dutch privacy awareness. There should therefore be no question of abolishing the referendum after today.

Law should be improved. If not: lawsuit.

The consequence of the referendum on the Sleep Act is clear: this law must be amended and improved immediately. If not, a large-scale lawsuit by Privacy First and several co-claimants (organisations) will follow to have the law declared unlawful in several parts and set aside by the court. Privacy First and coalition associates previously did this successfully in the 2015 decommissioning of the Telecom Retention Act. In recent years, Privacy First has repeatedly filed a similar lawsuit against the Sleep Act with both the government and the Senate and House of Representatives promised. The result of the current referendum provides enormous support in this regard. The writ of summons against the Sleep Act is now ready and our lawyers are in the starting blocks. So now the choice is up to the cabinet: change course or give way!