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Volkskrant, 25 April 2018: 'Will the government soon be allowed to keep your travel data for five years?'

If it were up to the Lower House, the flight data of all Dutch citizens could soon be stored in a government database for five years.

On Wednesday, the House is debating the bill that would make this possible. The House is broadly in favour, but opponents warn of "serious and disproportionate" invasion of citizens' privacy.

The new law requires airlines to provide the data of all passengers by default. This will create a database in which passenger data may be kept for up to five years. Justice Minister Grapperhaus is obliged to implement the law in the Netherlands, based on a European directive adopted in the European Parliament in 2016.


According to Vincent Böhre of advocacy group Privacy First, the law is far from proportionate. He points out that by far the majority of flying passengers are on holiday flights. 'For less than 1 per cent of passengers, you make 100 per cent collectively suspicious.' Böhre additionally denounces the huge amount of information that will be stored in the database. 'Travel information says an awful lot about who you are and what you do. You can create a whole profile of people based on their movements. It's a huge invasion of privacy.'

Gerrit-Jan Zwenne, professor of law and information society at Leiden University, thinks that the law could cause many problems. (...) The professor stressed that the law could also conflict with previous rulings by the Court of Justice of the European Union. 'Similar laws have been annulled by the court before.' According to him, it is conceivable that the same could happen with this law. The law would then have to be amended again in just a few years' time. (...)

What does your travel data say about you? 'More than you might think,' says Vincent Böhre of Privacy First. 'In any case, you don't want them to fall into the wrong hands.' Three examples:

Anyone at home?

The database consists of departure and return information of millions of people. So it says when people are away from home. Böhre: 'That is quite dangerous. You can deduce from it when someone's house is abandoned. That is very useful data for criminals. Because all the data of millions of people is now stored electronically, it poses a risk of hacks. That's a risk that affects everyone.'

Intimate information

The register also stores who everyone is travelling with. It also records who you sit next to on the seat. Böhre: 'From that, you can deduce the relationships between people. And that breaks into your privacy. People can have all kinds of reasons for wanting to keep their relationships hidden. They can be secret relationships with which people can even be blackmailed. They are very sensitive data. Your whole social life can be hidden in that data.'

Medical reasons

Most people travel by plane and then stay somewhere for an extended period of time. Exceptions to this may stand out in the data. Böhre: 'People going to an unusual country for a short period often travel for a medical procedure. Medical information is among the most sensitive. Such information you want to keep private, the possibility that it will now end up in a large database in which all kinds of patterns can be discovered jeopardises that.'"

Source: Volkskrant 25 April 2018, pp. 6-7. Read the full article here: