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Traveller files lawsuit over refusal of cash on bus

Bus passenger Michiel Jonker has filed a lawsuit against the Personal Data Authority (AP) over the AP's refusal to take enforcement action against transport company Breng/Connexxion.

Connexxion, like many other Dutch transport companies, has refused to accept payment for tickets with cash on the bus since mid-2018. According to Jonker, this is a violation of his privacy, as it forces him, as a bus passenger, to pay by debit card, processing his personal data. Jonker filed an enforcement request with the AP in July 2018 in this regard.

The AP subsequently refused to enforce. According to the Authority, there was an "agreement" (contract) between Connexxion and Jonker because Connexxion included the refusal of cash payment in its general terms and conditions. According to the AP, the general conditions drawn up by the transport company provide a legal basis for processing personal data (Article 6(1)(b) AVG). The AP also states that the purpose of "social safety" in public transport justifies the processing of personal data.

Jonker disputes this. According to him, there is no question of a voluntarily entered into contract, given his dependence on public transport and Connexxion's monopoly on the bus lines in question. Jonker also argues that a vaguely and generally formulated goal such as "social safety" does not justify a generic invasion of privacy on all Dutch bus lines. According to Jonker, the actual safety issues in specific regions and on specific bus lines should be considered.

Jonker: "As things stand, any group of companies, whether or not in collaboration with, say, a ministry or the police leadership, can unilaterally push through just about any invasion of privacy, without seriously substantiating why it would be necessary. And the AP is fine with that, because it is apparently not there for citizens, but for those who want to undermine citizens' rights. In my enforcement request and in my objection, I argued the case carefully, but the AP ignores the vast majority of my arguments. Unfortunately, you then end up back in court."

Previously, Jonker has won several privacy lawsuits, concerning the Arnhem address-specific waste card, and on the public transport chip card From NS. Jonker: "A total of six cases of mine are now pending before the AP, which each time refuses to carry out its legal enforcement duty. Although I have legal background knowledge and some other skills, this is ultimately not sustainable for a normal person. With its refusal, the AP is making privacy a joke in practice. The question now is what the judge thinks. If the judge agrees, it is the end of the story for privacy for the time being. The AVG would mean little in that case. But whether that is the case, I will first find out thoroughly by submitting it to the Dutch court, but if necessary also to the European court."

Jonker is supported in the case by the Privacy First Foundation and Society For Better Public Transport.