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SyRI coalition to Senate: 'Super SyRI' blueprint for more benefits affair

The parties that won a lawsuit against fraud system SyRI in February last year are warning the Senate against an even bigger and more intrusive data linking bill. "This proposal legitimises the modus operandi that led to the benefits affair," they said.

The Data Processing by Collaborative Groups Act (WGS) allows databases of both governments and companies to be linked together in so-called collaborative ventures. Government parties and companies in such a partnership are obliged to bring their data together to perform data analyses. These should help fight all kinds of crime and offences.

A priori suspicious Brand Identity

The coalition, consisting of the Civil Rights Platform, FNV, the Dutch Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights, Privacy First Foundation, KDVP Foundation, the National Clients' Council and authors Tommy Wieringa and Maxim Februari calls the law 'Super SyRI', as it goes further in several respects than the SyRI (System Risk Indication), which was struck out of the law by the courts last year. They call the proposal a threat to the functioning of the rule of law in a letter to the Senate, who will start treatment this Tuesday.

Parliament sidelined

The Upper and Lower Houses are sidelined in this proposal, the parties write. This is because the important parts are not regulated in the law on which the House is voting now, but are determined afterwards by the minister in lower regulations. Issues such as the amount and types of data, the parties that can access it and how it is analysed and used further are determined without the consent of the House. Such a legislative construction violates the Constitution, which requires that any invasion of privacy must be approved by parliament. If the Senate agrees to this approach, it effectively places itself on the sidelines.

All data on citizens fair game

In its explanation of the law, the government argues that the 'no, unless' principle in processing personal data should be reversed to a 'yes, provided' one. In doing so, it reverses the purpose limitation principle, which prescribes that personal data collected for a specific purpose cannot simply be processed for other purposes. The self-evident confidentiality with which personal data was handled is thus abolished, the parties write. "All data on citizens are 'fair game' under the WGS."

It thus becomes impossible for citizens to ascertain what is being exchanged about them, where this information ends up and what consequences it may have. Under the WGS, it is not only actual data shared by companies and public authorities, but also signals, suspicions and entire blacklists that are exchanged and interlinked. In doing so, the intention is for these parties to coordinate 'interventions' with each other on the basis of these shadow records in which they take enforcement action against citizens they catch sight of.

Blueprint for more surcharge affair

The benefits affair has shown that surreptitiously placing citizens on lists can have disastrous consequences. The WGS bill reads like a blueprint for a new data scandal, the parties argue: "With this proposal, the government is heading towards a form of governance which has no place in a free society and is reminiscent of the data processing practices that preceded the benefits affair."

The coalition hopes that the fundamental objections to this proposal, previously expressed by the Council of State and the Personal Data Authority, will lead to a comprehensive and critical debate in the Senate. The Lower House adopted the proposal on 17 December 2020, the day the "Unprecedented Injustice" report of the parliamentary interrogation committee on childcare allowance affair was published. "With this debacle so fresh in the memory, this proposal, which effectively provides a legal basis for the method used by Tax Authorities, deserves thorough consideration in the House, which has the emphatic responsibility for monitoring the quality of legislation."

Source: 11 January 2021.