Every motorist to become a potential suspect

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Dutch Ministry of Justice wants to track all motorists. The Privacy First Foundation is preparing for legal action.

Under a new, far-reaching legislative proposal, the Dutch Minister of Security and Justice Ivo Opstelten aims to enhance criminal investigation by introducing a four week storage period of the number plates of all cars through camera surveillance and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR). Current rules dictate that these data have to be deleted within 24 hours. In 2010, the previous Dutch Minister of Justice (Hirsch Ballin) planned to make a similar proposal with a storage period of 10 days. However, the Dutch House of Representatives then declared this topic to be controversial. In his current proposal, Opstelten takes things a few steps further. Early 2010 the Dutch Data Protection Authority (College Bescherming Persoonsgegevens, CBP) ruled that police forces were not adhering to Dutch privacy rules by storing number plates for a greater period than was legally allowed. According to the CBP, all number plates that are not suspect (so-called ‘no hits’) are to be removed from relevant databases immediately. Opstelten’s plan to store the number plates of unsuspected citizens for four weeks directly flies in the face of this.

The Privacy First Foundation considers Opstelten’s legislative proposal to be a threat to society. ‘‘Under this measure every citizen becomes a potential suspect. You ought to trust the government, but it’s that very government that distrusts its own citizens’’, Privacy First chairman Bas Filippini declares. In a healthy democratic constitutional State the government should leave innocent citizens alone. Under this legislative proposal the government crosses that fundamental line. Collectively monitoring all motorists for criminal investigation and prosecution purposes is completely disproportionate and therefore unlawful.

In case Dutch Parliament adopts this legislative proposal, Privacy First will summon the Netherlands and have the legislative Act in question declared null and void on account of being in violation with the right to privacy. If needed, Privacy First and individual co-plaintiffs will be prepared to litigate all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. As of today, every citizen who is willing to participate in this lawsuit can register with Privacy First, stating ‘ANPR Trial’.

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