Saturday, 20 August 2011 14:22

irProjector: 'watching the watchers'

Without us realizing it, we are being filmed and photographed by dozens of surveillance cameras on a daily basis. But who are the people actually looking at us, and do those camera operators actually realize that their work forms a continuous violation of someone else’s privacy? This last question inspired the young Dutch artist Peter van de Werve (25) for his project called irProjector. The letters ‘ir’ stand for infrared: with the use of infrared light Van de Werve projects life-sized messages onto the field of view of surveillance cameras in the Rotterdam inner-city. These messages are invisible to the naked eye, but do appear on the camera monitors. The infrared projections confront the security officers behind the monitors with messages such as: ‘Congratulations, you are the umpteenth voyeur’, ‘Your hair looks really nice today!’ and ‘Error 404: privacy not found!’ This sort of breaks the one-way traffic of public camera surveillance: by finding messages on their monitors, security officers experience being spied upon instead of the other way around. Hopefully this will make them think about the privacy of the people they monitor every day...

Privacy First regards this art project as a brilliant initiative and hopes its message will be noticed by many.

Watch the video below and read this article (in Dutch) about irProjector. Other art projects by Peter van de Werve can be found on his website:

Published in Art Collection

Last year the compulsory storage of fingerprints under the new Dutch Passport Act lead to turmoil on a national scale. This turmoil has been caused in particular by the enormous risks that accompany the storage. In order to contain the risks for citizens, the Privacy First Foundation brought into circulation a so-called Municipality Guarantee Letter (in Dutch: GemeenteGarantieBrief): by using this model letter citizens were able to obtain the guarantee from their municipality that their fingerprints would be dealt with carefully and that potential damage would be at the expense of the State. The Municipality Guarantee Letter turned out to be a great success. During a Dutch parliamentary debate the State Secretary for the Interior Ms. Ank Bijleveld described the letter as follows:

‘‘It’s a campaign by the Privacy First Foundation. This foundation submits a declaration about the storage of fingerprints to municipalities and asks council officials to sign it. They also have to indicate how they deal with the fingerprints and have to declare that they comply with certain guarantees.’’

The cause for this debate in the House of Representatives was the fact that the State Secretary had advised municipalities not to accept the letter, let alone sign it. Much to the annoyance of Dutch political parties as well as the National Ombudsman Alex Brenninkmeijer. Such letters should always be accepted by the government, according to the National Ombudsman. ‘‘There is a right to petition’’, Dutch newspaper Telegraaf quoted him as saying.

Recently the Dutch Interior Minister Piet Hein Donner announced that the storage of fingerprints by municipalities would be brought to an end at the end of July at the latest (after a modification to the municipal software). Moreover, plans for storage in a national database have been shelved because of privacy objections and the enormous percentage of errors in biometric technology. Yesterday (1 August) the Ministry of the Interior declared by telephone to Privacy First that the storage of fingerprints has now indeed been put to an end by all municipalities in the Netherlands, that is to say, it has been reduced to the duration in between the application and the provision of the passport or ID-card. With this the goal of the Municipality Guarantee Letter has for the most part been achieved.

Now another objective comes in sight: voluntary instead of compulsory storage of fingerprints in the document. To this end Privacy First has updated the Municipality Guarantee Letter to a new version: the Municipality Guarantee Letter 2.0. With this letter citizens can lodge an official protest to their municipality against the compulsory taking of fingerprints for a new passport or ID-card. Privacy First has already filled in a few possible objections in the model letter. Citizens can change or complete the letter to their own wishes. As of today, the letter is available for everyone on the website of Privacy First.

Privacy First expects that numerous citizens will make use of the new Municipality Guarantee Letter. This means the social resistance against the compulsory taking of fingerprints enters a new phase.

Download the Municipality Guarantee Letter 2.0 by Privacy First HERE.

Published in Actions

This week Big Brother suffered a well deserved defeat in the Dutch city of Groningen: an experiment with 'listening cameras' in the Groningen inner city has turned out to be a complete failure. The aim of the experiment was to be able to detect ‘deviant behavior’. However, this happens to be technically infeasible: the microphones mounted onto the cameras cannot even distinguish a fight from a scooter passing by. Mayor Peter Rehwinkel has therefore decided to get rid of the microphones.

The decision by the mayor fits into a current European trend: on behest of the European Parliament the flow of money to the European Big Brother-project INDECT has recently been called to a halt. This project too was intended for detecting ‘deviant behavior’. With it the police expected to be able to predict and prevent crimes, much like in the Hollywood film Minority Report.

We will now need to wait for the development of new software to detect deviant Big Brother behavior of policy makers. Privacy First will keep you posted...! ;)

Sources: Dutch newspaper Volkskrant, July 20Webwereld 8 June 2011.

Published in CCTV

Shocking news today: the Dutch police wants to check fingerprints on the streets. An experiment with special finger-scan equipment is to start this fall.

Initially the aim of the experiment is to track down illegal immigrants and suspects of crimes. After that, attention will undoubtedly turn to all other citizens.

It was recently decided to halt the storage of fingerprints when applying for passports and ID cards on account of privacy objections and the enormous error rates (21-25%) in biometric technology. Such errors could lead to great numbers of innocent citizens ending up as suspects. Apparently the police is now accepting this risk. No doubt this is a six-figure deal: biometrics are big business. Similar, heavily criticized projects in Great Britain involved millions of ICT pounds.  

However, according to the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice there’s no problem:

‘‘Instead of people having to go to the police station, fingerprints are taken on the spot. This reduces bureaucracy, makes sure there’s more police out on the streets and improves criminal investigation.’’ (Source)

Privacy First stands up against this type of criminalization of public space. Fingerprints have to be taken of suspects at the police station. Not of ordinary citizens on the streets. Apart from violating people's privacy, this paves the way for arbitrariness, discrimination and ethnic profiling.

In the view of Privacy First, the scheduled experiment violates current privacy legislation. During the recent hearing about passport biometrics at the Dutch House of Representatives this was even confirmed by the Chief Information Officer of the Dutch Police itself:

‘‘When the identity of someone has to be ascertained out on the street, or when a passport is handed over, it’s not like the police immediately has a look, wherever... It’s not even allowed, but technically it isn't available either.’’
(A. Meijboom (CIO Dutch Police),
Round table about biometric data in passports, permanent commission for the Ministry of the Interior, Dutch House of Representatives, 20 April 2011.)

Everyone can draw their own conclusions from this.

Published in Biometrics

The art project ‘© Google Privacy’ by Dutch artist Sofie Groot Dengerink will be on exhibit in the Municipal Museum of The Hague from 10 July till 21 August 2011. This art project is part of the SummerExpo 2011 dubbed ‘Anonymously Chosen’. In 2010 Groot Dengerink graduated from the Utrecht School of Arts with her project ‘© 2020’. ‘© Google Privacy’ is the continuation of this and will show a number of interiors that are visible in Google Maps, as was the case with her previous project.

© Google Privacy is a virtual street where the viewer gets a special peek into the lives of the people who live there. Fascinated by Google’s digital world and by the interaction with the analogous world, Sofie Groot Dengerink shows how far-reaching the digital invasion of privacy is by incorporating screenshots of Google Maps in her work. She wonders: ‘How much further will things go?’

Sofie: ‘‘There’s actually relatively little to be seen in the living rooms, but what if better cameras are going to be used in the future with which you can effectively zoom into those rooms, being able to actually read what is written on the account statements that are on the table... Your entire private life is literally up for grabs out on the street, with the difference that these streets can be viewed all over the world and at any given moment during the day. Street View is public territory and Google puts these images online without the residents knowing it. In the old days you used to walk on the streets at night and you could peek into the homes that didn’t have their curtains drawn, ‘so you could see how Mary had her couches arranged’. Nowadays you can safely do that at home, behind your desk.’’

‘‘Nothing stays a secret in today’s internet culture. Many people that I visited, of whom I had ‘taken a picture’ of their interior, didn’t even know that their interior is so clearly visible in Google Maps and they were alarmed by it. So some of them didn’t want to cooperate with my project, which of course is understandable. Suddenly there’s this girl standing at your front door with a picture of your dining table full of paperwork asking whether she may print and use it. You cannot yet quite see what exactly is written on those papers, but this is only still a small step away from really zooming into the living room. That’s what I’m trying to show with this research. The pictures are merely screenshots from my PC screen. I myself have put the navigation that seems to come from Google as a layer on top.’’

In © Google Privacy you just get that little bit of extra information about life in this digital parallel world (click on the pictures to enlarge):






In 2010 Sofie Groot Dengerink designed a tram with ‘Amstertram Maps’ for the Amsterdam public transport company GVB as well as an installation called ‘Digital Transformation’ for Capgemini, Les Fontaines. More work by Sofie Groot Dengerink that is characterized by the interaction between the digital and analogous world can be found at and

Published in Art Collection

This afternoon Privacy First sent the following letter to the Electronic Health Record spokespersons in the Dutch House of Representatives:

‘‘Dear Members of Parliament,

Recently the Senate, quite rightly, unanimously rejected the legislative proposal to introduce a national Electronic Health Record (Elektronisch Patiëntendossier, EPD), especially in light of the enormous privacy risks this EPD would entail. It is therefore with great concern that Privacy First has taken note of developments that indicate a possible restart of that very same EPD along a private, extra-parliamentary route. Such a restart is not only disdainful with regard to our democratic process, it is also a denial of the risks and worries on the basis of which a legal introduction of a national EPD recently did not go ahead. To this end, Privacy First makes an urgent appeal to you to call a halt to this development and to call the relevant persons in charge to account. From a privacy-legal point of view, Privacy First is of the opinion that the Dutch government remains unabatedly responsible for any privacy-infringements that will result from a private, national EPD, especially in light of the fact that such a system has been emphatically rejected by the Senate for privacy reasons.    

In line with the recently adopted Franken motion, in this respect Privacy First also urges you to have an independent, public Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) carried out as soon as possible with regard to both 1) a national EPD as envisaged by the private parties involved as well as 2) possible alternatives for this national EPD. In carrying out this PIA, necessity, proportionality, subsidiarity and freedom of choice are to be guiding criteria. Privacy by design and privacy enhancing technologies, among which for instance technologically advanced patient cards or personal health records, are to fulfil an important role in such a PIA. Until the moment the PIA has been rounded off, no irreversible steps towards a private restart of the national EPD are to be taken.

In the view of Privacy First, the National Switch Point (Landelijk Schakelpunt, LSP) of the national EPD is to be transformed to small-scale, regional systems in accordance with the desire of the Senate. For regional exchange of data an LSP is unnecessary: to this end regional switch points are sufficient, possibly complemented by supra-regional 'push-communication'. This enhances security and reduces the risks of abuse that are inherent to a national EPD.’’

Published in Medical Privacy

On Tuesday 24 May 2011, the Dutch Senate accepted an important motion in which a number of privacy guarantees in new legislation are being confirmed and reinforced. The motion was accepted by an overwhelming majority (Dutch liberal party VVD was the only party to vote against). The previous week the motion was filed (during the Parliamentary debate about digital data processing) by senator Hans Franken (of the Christian-democratic party CDA) and even the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations Piet Hein Donner (CDA) and the State Secretary for Security and Justice Fred Teeven (VVD) had remarked that ‘‘there are a lot of things in there that we can live with just fine’’. Even though formally the motion is not legally binding, part of its contents are and a great deal of political importance is accrued to it. The entire motion reads as follows: 


Proposed 17 May 2011

The House of Representatives,

on the advice of the deliberation,

considering that the fundamental right to the protection of privacy is of great importance in our democratic constitutional State,

considering that there are tendencies to increase and reinforce possible limitations to this fundamental right in new legislation,

considering also that in the event of making new legislation, particular attention should be paid to the question whether or not limitations to the fundamental right to the protection of privacy are justified,

considering that in order to answer this question, it must subsequently be measured up against treaty obligations on the basis of the following criteria:

  • 1. The necessity, effectiveness and practicality of the measure,
  • 2. The proportionality; the infringement may not be greater than is strictly necessary,
  • 3. The results of a Privacy Impact Assessment, in order for the risks that the measure implies to be examined beforehand,
  • 4. The possibility of effective supervision and control of the bringing into practice of the measure, which is to be realized through audits by an independent supervisor,
  • 5. Limitations to the period of validity through a sunset clause or at least an evaluation clause,

requests the government to take the above mentioned criteria into consideration in the deliberation and decision-making process of developing legislative proposals in which there are limitations to the fundamental right to protection of privacy, and to report about this in the explanatory memorandum of the legislative proposal concerned,

and proceeds to the order of the day.

Signed by:

Franken (CDA)

Tan (PvdA)

Strik (GroenLinks)

Holdijk (SGP)

Slagter-Roukema (SP)

Staal (D66)

Published in Law & Politics

This week an important policy debate took place in the Dutch Senate with the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations Piet Hein Donner (of the Christian-democratic party CDA) and the State Secretary for Security and Justice Fred Teeven (of the liberal party VVD) about ‘the role of the government in digital data processing’. In the week following up to the debate Privacy First had expressed its views to the Senate. We are pleased to see that many of our views have been accepted (and even literally copied by some parties) throughout the Senate and that even government members Donner and Teeven proved not to be insensitive to them. This goes for both classic rights and principles that need to be reconfirmed as well as some new starting points:

- the right to express, prior and fully informed consent of citizens in the use of their personal data, both by the government and corporations;

- strict purpose limitation and necessity when using personal data;

- the right of citizens to access, correction and deletion of their personal data;

- privacy, freedom of choice, transparency and effectiveness as leading principles in the drafting of new legislation;

- the importance of evaluation and sunset clauses in (new) legislation;

- public cost-benefit analyses;

- public disclosure of departmental feasibility studies, pilot projects and research reports;

- introduction of privacy impact assessments (PIAs) and privacy by design;

- support of the legislative process by means of expert meetings and external advice.

However, the statement by minister Donner that destroying the fingerprints which are stored by Dutch municipalities would still take months is a great disappointment. The same goes for the fact that there is still no ‘fingerprint-free’ ID card; this too could have been implemented a long time ago. Recently Privacy First urged the minister to execute this process as quickly as possible (be it through modifying relevant legislation or through technical modifications).

A draft report of the Parliamentary debate can be found HERE. Our own audio recordings of the debate can be downloaded HERE. A great number of interesting passages from the debate (both by Members of Parliament as well as members of the government) can be found HERE (in Dutch).

Published in Law & Politics
Thursday, 26 May 2011 22:56

DigiMe – Identity in the Digital Age

‘I’ve got nothing to hide’ is what people say who have never had to deal with the consequences of loss of data, an annoying agency or an uncooperative government. Perhaps that’s naive, but why would you worry about something that won’t happen to you anyway?

At the end of the day, though, everyone will reach a turning point and realize that privacy – the right to have a private life – is actually important. Some people may have reached this point with the introduction of compulsory identification, today many people scratch their heads when they have their fingerprints taken for an ID-card. For Mariette Hummel it concerned the simple fact that she found her address and mobile telephone number on the internet. That’s why Mariette has started the DigiMe project, taking a close look at her own profile to find out which digital traces she has left behind.

Take a look at her website and in case you wonder exactly what kind of information goes around on the internet, then please consider contributing to this research project.

Published in Identity Theft

For the benefit of the policy debate in the Dutch Senate on 17 May 2011 about digital data processing the Privacy First Foundation today has sent the following focal points to Senate members. Privacy First hopes that these focal points will take on a guiding role in the debate between the members of the Senate and members of the Dutch government.

Privacy’s First motto is ‘‘your choice in a free society’’ For citizens, this translates into:

- the right to express, prior and fully informed consent of citizens in the use of their personal data, both by the government and corporations;

- any use of personal data is to be strictly necessary and purpose bound;

- citizens have the right to access, correction and deletion of their personal data at all times;

- relevant legislation needs to be known and to be accessible to citizens;

- no new legislation without prior democratic (public) debate.

For the government and Parliament, this translates into:

- privacy, freedom of choice, transparency and efficiency as guiding principles in the drafting of new legislation;

- a preference for formal laws instead of Orders in Council and ministerial regulations;

- no so-called ‘gold-plating’ (add-ons) in the implementation of European legislation;

- mandatory evaluation and sunset clauses;

- an integral approach by considering every new law in conjunction with other, already existing laws and treaties;

- an integral approach by considering all new technical applications in conjunction with other, already existing technical applications;

- public cost-benefit analyses;

- public disclosure of relevant official feasibility studies, pilot projects and research reports;

- making privacy impact assessments (PIAs), privacy by design and privacy enhancing technologies (PET) compulsory;

- support of the legislative process by means of expert meetings and external advice.

For further information or questions regarding the above Privacy First is available at all times.

Published in Law & Politics
Page 18 of 20

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