By now basically everyone is aware of the far-reaching eavesdropping practices by the American National Security Agency (NSA). For years the NSA has been secretly eavesdropping on millions of people around the world, varying from ordinary citizens to journalists, politicians, attorneys, judges, scientists, CEOs, diplomats and even presidents and heads of State. In doing so, the NSA has completely ignored the territorial borders and laws of other countries, as we have learned from the revelations by Edward Snowden in the PRISM scandal. Instead of calling the Americans to order, secret services in other countries appear to be all too eager to make use of the intelligence that the NSA has unlawfully obtained. In this way national, European and international legislation that should safeguard citizens against such practices is being violated in two ways: on the one hand by foreign secret services such as the NSA that collect intelligence unlawfully, and on the other hand by secret services in other countries that subsequently use this intelligence. This constitutes an immediate threat to everyone’s privacy and to the proper functioning of every democratic constitutional State. This is also the case in the Netherlands, where neither the national Parliament nor the responsible minister (Mr. Ronald Plasterk, Home Affairs) has so far taken appropriate action. This situation cannot continue any longer. Therefore a national coalition of Dutch citizens and organizations (including the Privacy First Foundation) has today decided to take the Dutch government to court and demand that the inflow and use of illegal foreign intelligence on Dutch soil is instantly brought to a halt. Furthermore, the coalition demands that the Dutch government notifies all citizens whose personal data have been illegally obtained. These data must also be deleted.
These legal proceedings by the Privacy First Foundation primarily serve the general interest and aim to restore the right to privacy of every citizen in the Netherlands. The lawsuit is conducted by bureau Brandeis; this law firm also represents Privacy First and 19 co-plaintiffs (Dutch citizens) in our Passport Trial against the Dutch government. Privacy First is confident it will soon have positive outcomes in both of these cases.
Click HERE to read the subpoena as it was presented to minister Plasterk today. (Dutch only)
Apart from Privacy First, the coalition of plaintiff parties consists of the following organizations and citizens:
- The Dutch Association of Defence Counsel (Nederlandse Vereniging van Strafrechtadvocaten, NVSA)
- The Dutch Association of Journalists (Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten, NVJ)
- The Dutch chapter of the Internet Society (ISOC.nl)
- Jeroen van Beek
- Rop Gonggrijp
- Bart Nooitgedagt (represented by the NVSA)
- Matthieu Paapst (represented by ISOC.nl)
- Brenno de Winter (represented by the NVJ).
Update 5 February 2014: today the Dutch government (Ministries of Home Affairs and Defence) has responded to the subpoena in a comprehensive statement of defence; click HERE for the entire document (pdf; MIRROR) and HERE for the press release by our attorneys of bureau Brandeis (in Dutch). It is remarkable that the State Attorney only deems the Privacy First Foundation admissible (see p. 31). This means that Privacy First is only one step away from standing before the judges of the district court of The Hague. This development is also of great importance for our Passport Trial, in which that same court at an earlier stage deemed Privacy First et al. inadmissible. The Hague Court of Appeal is currently looking into this legal issue once more. In the point of view of Privacy First, the court should declare all plaintiffs (citizens and organizations) admissible in both the court case concerning the NSA as well as our lawsuit regarding the Dutch biometric passport.
Since we are a foundation that has privacy very high on its agenda, it is only natural for us to make use of a privacy-friendly hosting service for our website. Therefore the websites of Privacy First (privacyfirst.nl and privacyfirst.eu) are hosted on the servers of Greenhost in Amsterdam since this month. This decision was preceded by a thorough exploration of foreign alternatives, varying from hosting services inside a nuclear bunker in Sweden to VPN tunnels in Switzerland and an old fortress in the North Sea. However, Greenhost proved to be well ahead of its foreign competitors in terms of customer-friendliness, rapid response, sustainability and low costs for reliable and secure hosting, including Privacy by Design. Even the physical location is an advantage: Greenhost is situated in Amsterdam just a few hundred metres from the Privacy First office. Moreover, Greenhost has been a trustworthy partner of a number of NGOs, including Bits of Freedom. For Privacy First however, the decisive aspect was the fact that Greenhost has for years taken up an exemplary role of privacy pioneer, whereas many other ICT companies lagged behind in this respect. In 2009 Greenhost stopped logging email data and called for other companies to do the same. At the beginning of 2011 Greenhost wrote a manual for the security of internet traffic: the Basic Internet Security Manual. These initiatives not only reflect audacity and leadership, but also corporate social responsibility in the sense of privacy-friendly entrepreneurship. In that regard Greenhost and Privacy First have a shared vision on society. Therefore Privacy First looks forward with great confidence to the cooperation with Greenhost in the years to come!