Various regional dailies, 17 April 2012: 'CBP shows too little presence in public debate'
"'The functioning of the CBP? Just say the dísfunctioning of the CBP," Miek Wijnberg responded combatively when asked how the Dutch Data Protection Authority (CBP) was doing. The president of the civil rights association Vrijbit, which opposes "control drift" and "erosion of privacy", is highly critical. "It starts with the term privacy. CBP is supposed to be the privacy watchdog of the Netherlands. But privacy goes much further than just monitoring personal data."
So much remains outside CBP's mandate, agrees Vincent Böhre, a lawyer at Privacy First, a foundation that advocates the preservation and promotion of the right to privacy. Wijnberg and Böhre cite as an example a bill allowing preventive searches to combat benefit fraud.
The CBP should not be able to act with fines only after the fact; it should also be able to prevent certain systems from being built, Wijnberg believes. "But that is the second structural problem: the CBP's advisory function does not amount to anything." For legislative proposals, the watchdog is only asked for advice "at the last minute". Wijnberg: "The CBP has to respond within six weeks, which is very short. Moreover, those opinions can just as easily be set aside. And then the CBP is not so assertive as to sound the alarm at the House of Representatives."
This happened, for example, with the Passport Act. "The [bill] violated the European Convention on Human Rights, according to the CBP, because it involved large-scale storage of biometric data that would also be used for judicial purposes," says Wijnberg. "The government said: we are going ahead with it anyway. And Kohnstamm did nothing."
The regulator could become more proactive anyway, Böhre believes. "The CBP shows itself far too little in the public debate at important moments." He mentions the discussion about the Passport Act in 2009. "A fierce debate erupted in the summer, but the CBP did not make itself heard for months. If you have given advice before, it doesn't mean you can't raise the critical alarm later. A missed opportunity. Other regulators such as the National Ombudsman and the Equal Treatment Commission do this better."
The organisations also criticised CBP's slowness and bureaucracy and the fact that individual citizens cannot lodge complaints with the watchdog. Böhre: "There is a telephone consultation hour, but with that you only get a general answer. You don't know what happens to it. Or you can 'signal' an abuse by filling in a form. Only when there are a lot of signals is something perhaps done with it."
Source: BN/DeStem, Brabants Dagblad, Dagblad De Limburger, De Gelderlander, Limburgs Dagblad, Twentse Courant Tubantia, Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant, Leeuwarder Courant, Eindhovens Dagblad, De Stentor / Deventer Dagblad, Dagblad Flevoland, Gelders Dagblad, Nieuw Kamper Dagblad, Sallands Dagblad, Zutphens Dagblad & Zwolse Courant, 17 April 2012.