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Tuesday, 02 August 2011 14:06

Campaign: Municipality Guarantee Letter 2.0

Model Municipality Guarantee Letter 2.0

In case you are in need of a new Dutch passport or ID card even though you find it a problem having your fingerprints taken, you can protest against this and cover yourself against the possible consequences of how the Dutch government will deal with your personal data by using the letter below. You can download the Municipality Guarantee Letter for personal use in PDFpdfor in Word-format.

Privacy First has already filled in some possible objections in the model letter. However, you can alter or complete the letter to your own wishes.

At your request your municipality is obliged to accept this Municipality Guarantee Letter, according also to the Dutch National Ombudsman. See also the report about this in Dutch national newspaper De Telegraaf of 22 April 2010.

 

MODEL MUNICIPALITY GUARANTEE LETTER IN CASE OF A NEW PASSPORT OR ID CARD WITH FINGERPRINTS

REGISTER LETTER

Municipality [name of your municipality]
Attn [name of the mayor or the name of the authorised representative of the municipality]
[Address town hall]
[Postal code] [City]  

[Your place of residency], [Date]

Dear Sir/Madam [name of the mayor],

You, or one of your officials has stated that on account of the new Dutch Passport Act it is not possible for me to apply for a passport and/or ID card without me providing fingerprints. These fingerprints will be stored in an RFID-chip in my passport or ID card that can be read from a distance.  

I hereby protest against the taking of my fingerprints on the following grounds:

1) Having my fingerprints taken constitutes a violation of my human dignity. Fingerprints are to be taken of criminal suspects. Not of innocent citizens.
2) My fingerprints are, and remain, my property. The government has no say over this.
3) Current fingerprint technology (biometrics) does not work in 21-25% of cases. Going ahead with it is a waste of funds at the expense of citizens.
4) By having my fingerprints taken I risk becoming a victim of (biometric) identity fraud, for example after (the RFID-chip in) my passport or ID card has been stolen, lost or hacked into.

This situation constitutes an illicit restriction of my right to the protection of my private life as laid down in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Therefore I only provide my fingerprints under protest of having to do so.

Moreover, I would like to point out to you that all actions carried out by the municipality with regard to my fingerprints have to comply with the rules of the Dutch Data Protection Act (Wet bescherming persoonsgegevens, Wbp).

I hereby request you to declare, by signing this letter, that the municipality has taken note of my objections and will only process my fingerprints in compliance with the Wbp. This implies, among other things, that the municipality:

1) will process my fingerprints in a fair and accurate way;
2) will not proceed to further process my fingerprints in ways incompatible with the purposes for which the fingerprints have been obtained (viz., the issuance of a passport and/or ID card);
3) will not provide my fingerprints to any third parties without my explicit prior approval;
4) will not store my fingerprints any longer than is necessary for the realization of the purposes for which the fingerprints have been collected or processed (viz., the issuance of a passport and/or ID card); and
5) will protect my fingerprints against any loss or any form of unlawful processing by means of suitable technical and organizational measures.

I would like to receive this signed letter five days from now at the latest at the address indicated below.

Nothing in this letter may be assumed to be a recognition of the right of the municipality to carry out the above-described actions with my fingerprints. The content of this letter does not restrict any of my rights, all of which are reserved. Furthermore, I would like to point out to you that in case the municipality will process my fingerprints without taking the Wbp into account, or in any other illicit way, the municipality is bound to reimburse any possible damage suffered by me as a consequence.

Yours sincerely,

 

Signed for agreement on behalf of the municipality,

Name:

 

Name:

Address:

 

Function:

Date:

 

Date:

Signature:

 

Signature:

Published in Actions

"Courts are investigating the legality of a European Union regulation requiring biometric passports in Europe. Last month, the Dutch Council of State (Raad van State, the highest Dutch administrative court) asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to decide if the regulation requiring fingerprints in passports and travel documents violates citizens’ right to privacy. The case entered the courts when three Dutch citizens were denied passports and another citizen was denied an ID card for refusing to provide their fingerprints. The ECJ ruling will play an important role in determining the legality of including biometrics in passports and travel documents in the European Union.

The Dutch Council referred the question of legality to the ECJ, arguing that the restrictions on privacy do not outweigh the ostensible aim of fraud prevention, and questioning the RFID technique. The Council also questioned whether fingerprints could be safeguarded so that they would only be used in passports or identity cards and not in databases for other purposes (known as function creep). The four cases that prompted this challenge to the biometric passport regulation are suspended pending the ECJ’s response.

The Netherlands has mandated fingerprints in passports and ID-cards since 2009. The Dutch biometric Passport Act is the misshapen offspring of the European Regulation compelling security features and biometrics in passports. The Regulation mandates that passports include two fingerprints taken flat in interoperable formats.

The Netherlands' storage of a biometric database was suspended in 2011, following privacy concerns as well as questions over the reliability of biometric technology. The Mayor of the City of Roermond reported that 21 percent of fingerprints collected in the city could not be used to identify any individuals. In April 2011, the Dutch Minister of Interior, in a letter to the Dutch House of Representatives, asserted that the number of false rejections was too high to warrant using fingerprints for verification and identification. Currently, only fingerprints stored in Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips embedded in ID documents are being collected.

The Amsterdam-based Privacy First Foundation (Stichting Privacy First) appreciates the critical stance on biometrics taken by the Dutch Council of State in line with the position taken by a German court: "We hope the ECJ will soon rule that the European Passport Regulation is invalid both in a formal, procedural sense (having been improperly adopted in 2004) and in a material sense (violating the human right to privacy and data protection). In the meantime, we hope the Dutch Parliament will scrap compulsory fingerprinting for Dutch ID cards as soon as possible."

A government proposal to this effect is currently before the Dutch House of Representatives.

The Dutch Council concerns echo questions raised by a German court earlier this year regarding the legality of the German biometric passports with RFID chips. The German court has questioned whether the EU regulation is compatible with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (EU Charter) and the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). The German case was preempted when a German citizen, Michael Schwarz, refused to provide his fingerprints to obtain his new passport and the City of Bochum decided not to issue him one.

Mr. Schwarz argued that the regulation infringes privacy as protected under the ECHR and the EU Charter. In this case, the German court argued that the European Union has no legislative competence to enact rules on standards for security features and biometrics in passports as there is no direct relation of such rules to the protection and security of EU external frontiers.

The German court decided that the requirement of biometric data in passports is a “serious infringement” on privacy, arguing that the measure does not satisfy the proportionality test of being appropriate, necessary, or reasonable."

Read the entire article (including sources) on the website of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) HERE.

This week the Dutch House of Representatives will vote on a legislative proposal on the taking of 10 fingerprints of all foreigners (immigrants) for criminal investigation and prosecution purposes. This legislative proposal originally dates back to March 2009, the period in which all the Dutch government could come up with was privacy-intrusive legislation. The Privacy First Foundation deems this legislative proposal to be in breach of the right to privacy and the prohibition of self-incrimination. Below is the email that Privacy First sent to relevant Members of Parliament this afternoon:

Dear Members of Parliament,

Next Tuesday you will cast your vote on a legislative proposal aimed at extending the use of biometric features (fingerprints, facial scans) of immigrants. Hereby the Privacy First Foundation advises you to vote against this legislative proposal, especially in light of its disproportionate character. This disproportionality is demonstrated by the lack of relevant statistics and the relatively low fraud figures mentioned in the annotation to the legislative proposal dated 13 July 2012 by former Minister for Immigration, Integration and Asylum Gerd Leers (Christian-democratic party CDA).[1] As with all human rights, any infringement of the right to privacy (Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, ECHR) requires a concrete statistical necessity instead of vague suspicions and wishful thinking. Therefore, it is all the more worrying that under this legislative proposal the prints of as many as 10 fingers will be taken of every immigrant to ‘compensate’ for the fact that the biometric technology is inadequate to suffice with just one or two fingerprints. However, are these 10 fingerprints not actually meant to serve the interests of criminal investigation behind this legislative proposal...? In this respect, a comparison could be made with the following consideration by the Minister of Justice Benk Korthals (Dutch political party VVD), dated 10 December 2001:

‘‘In response to the question by the CDA, I am not prepared to proceed to the taking of fingerprints of all Dutch citizens in the interests of criminal investigation. This would be disproportionate, considering for example the number of print cases offered on an annual basis, in the whole of the Netherlands around 10,000. Furthermore, it is basically impracticable because prints have to be made of all ten fingers and possibly the hand palms for them to be of any use for criminal investigation. Apart from the administrative processing and control, this would require too big a drain on police resources. In the context of the new ID card, a new biometric feature such as a fingerprint will possibly be adopted. This will be about determining whether the holder of the ID card is in actual fact the very person that is mentioned on it. Perhaps just one fingerprint will be enough for that, but that is absolutely insufficient for criminal investigation.’’[2]

In other words: under the guise of combating fraud, with this legislative proposal a centralised search register of immigrants is created, exactly in the same way that this was about to happen a few years ago with the fingerprints of all Dutch citizens. Privacy First assumes that the various reasons why this last project was reversed midway through 2011 at the insistence of your Parliament (!) are known to you and apply just as much for the current legislative proposal. In addition, this proposal has a stigmatizing effect since it causes a whole population group (immigrants) to be seen as potential suspects. This creates an inversion of the presumption of innocence and conflicts with the prohibition of self-incrimination. In that sense the legislative proposal constitutes a collective violation of both Article 6 (nemo tenetur) and Article 8 ECHR (privacy and physical integrity). With regard to the Passport Act, this has led to a Dutch and European snowball effect of lawsuits since 2009. Therefore, Privacy First hopes that the House of Representatives has the progressive insight to prevent a repetition of this history.

Yours sincerely,

The Privacy First Foundation

[1] See Annotation on account of the report, Parliamentary Documents II, 2011-2012, 33192, no. 6, at 2-3, 5-6, 23, 25-27.

[2] Letter of the Minister of Justice (Benk Korthals) dated 10 december 2001, Parliamentary Documents II, 2001-2002, 19637 (Policy on refugees), no. 635, at 7.

Update 29 January 2013: the legislative proposal (no. 33192) has unfortunately been accepted by the House of Representatives this afternoon (video; starting at 19m36s). Dutch political parties D66, SP, ChristenUnie and the Party for the Animals voted against. Read also the report by Privacy Barometer and today’s article in newspaper NRC Handelsblad. Next stop: the Senate...

Update 29 January 2013, 21:45: Left-wing party GroenLinks ('GreenLeft') has notified that it had intended to vote against and will have the voting record corrected.

Update 30 January 2013: today GroenLinks notified the House of Representatives of its vote against the legislative proposal.

Update 31 January 2013: the article in NRC Handelsblad was also published in the affiliated newspaper NRC Next. Read also today's article in newspaper Nederlands Dagblad.

Update 8 February 2013: for the current status of the legislative proposal in the Dutch Senate, click HERE.

Update 6 March 2013: today Privacy First has sent a similar version of the email above to the Commission for Immigration and Asylum of the Dutch Senate.

Published in Law & Politics

The Privacy First Foundation regularly organises networking drinks combined with informational sessions for our volunteers, donors and experts from our network of journalists, scientists, jurists and people working in ICT. Since July 2011, these events are organised about every three months and take place at the Privacy First office in the former building of de Volkskrant newspaper in Amsterdam. Themes discussed so far have been privacy in the Netherlands (speaker: Bart de Koning), biometrics (Max Snijder) and profiling by the government (Quirine Eijkman and André Hoogstrate). There were also book presentations by Dimitri Tokmetzis (De digitale schaduw – The digital shadow) and Adriaan Bos (Advocaat van de waarheid – Advocate of the truth). On Thursday night 13 September this year, we had a real scoop: a lecture about the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst, AIVD) and the right to privacy by no one other than the Head of the AIVD himself, Mr. Rob Bertholee. (Click HEREpdf for the invitations to our network (in Dutch). Would you also like to receive our invitations from now on? Email us!) The following morning, the essence of Bertholee’s lecture appeared on the AIVD website: click HERE (in Dutch). An article in Dutch newspaper Telegraaf about the event was published today. Below is a translated summary of Bertholee's speech and the discussion with the audience that followed (taking over two hours in total).

A common goal: freedom in an open democratic society

The night starts with a short introduction by Privacy First chairman Bas Filippini. In Filippini’s view, Privacy First and the AIVD actually pursue the same objective, namely freedom in an open democratic society, albeit from different perspectives. Rob Bertholee affirms this and says that tonight, contrary to what some may think, he doesn't really consider himself to be in the lion’s den. After a long career in the army, Bertholee has been the Head of the AIVD for nine months now. One of his first impressions of the AIVD was one of a professional organisation with people who are driven by their ideals, he says. Both the AIVD and the MIVD (military intelligence) have to deal with risks and threats to national security and the democratic legal order, in other words, with threats to our way of life and the guarantees for our freedoms thereof. As a result of internationalisation and new technologies, threats and risks increase in number and have a greater impact and reach. An example is the internet that, apart from its positive aspects, has a downside to it as well. 
Rob Bertholee


Security is not a fundamental right

The AIVD has two main tasks: intelligence and security. Formally however, security is not a fundamental right, Bertholee rightly remarks. In its case-law, the European Court of Human Rights has indicated that States are obliged to take all reasonable measures against life-threatening situations, he says. Subsequently, the Council of Europe has endorsed this in its Guidelines on human rights and the fight against terrorism. Whereas Privacy First focuses on the protection of the individual, the AIVD concentrates on the protection of the community of individuals. In between there’s a trade-off: in order to protect the community, sometimes it is necessary to infringe the rights of the individual. Bertholee then mentions a couple of tasks of the AIVD which do not infringe the right to privacy. This is the case for 1) personal security assessment and 2) protective measures for individuals, organisations and companies, for example in relation to espionage. In these two cases the law dictates that the AIVD is, by law, not allowed to deploy special intelligence powers. It is exactly the deployment of such powers that infringes people's privacy.

An important part of the AIVD is the National Communications Security Agency (Nationaal Bureau voor Verbindingsbeveiliging, NBV) which supports the Dutch central government in securing special information. The NBV evaluates security products and plays a role in their development. It is this agency where, for example, USB flash drives for the government are tested on data leakages. Then there’s the political intelligence task of the AIVD abroad, "which, admittedly, intrudes upon people's privacy, but not here in this country". Finally, there’s the task of making threat analyses for certain individuals (for example politicians), organisations or events. One task of the AIVD through which privacy in the Netherlands is put at stake concerns the assessment of ‘threats to our national security, the continuation of democratic rule of law and other, important State interests". This assessment is carried out, first of all, through open sources (media, internet, etc.), but can (subsequently) proceed by shadowing, monitoring or eavesdropping of persons or by penetrating virtual or physical spaces. In this respect Bertholee emphasizes the high degree to which employees of the AIVD are aware of 'the spirit' of the Dutch Intelligence and Security Services Act 2002 (Wet op de inlichtingen- en veiligheidsdiensten, Wiv2002). "As a citizen I felt reasonably reassured from the moment I had an understanding of what the AIVD was actually doing and what it could and was allowed to do, and also by the way the government can continue to exercise control over a service like the AIVD," says Bertholee. "You don't have to believe me, but I just wanted to share this with you," he jokes. Then he’s resolute again in saying "our tasks and powers are all clearly defined by law."

Rob Bertholee

Legal framework

In the field of counter-terrorism, at the moment most of the AIVD’s attention goes out to (potential) Jihadists and radical 'lone wolves' like Anders Breivik. Bertholee finds it worrisome that such lone wolves are hard to track down, even though relevant information is sometimes available, for example at healthcare institutions or the police. A difficult dilemma is, on the one hand, the question whether or not certain events could have been prevented by correlating information on national and international levels and, on the other, which risks society is willing to take in order to preserve people's privacy, Bertholee explains. However, he can well imagine that citizens worry about the correlation and international exchange of data and that this is bringing about a 'Big Brother' experience. As a citizen, Bertholee himself is worried about this too. Where is the right balance between protecting the individual and protecting the community? Every special power of the AIVD is anchored in the Wiv2002. The most simple special power is talking to people (Article 17 Wiv2002). For every single special power in the Wiv2002 the following requirements apply: 1) necessity, 2), proportionality and 3) subsidiarity. Therefore, special powers may only be deployed in case open sources (internet etc.) prove to be insufficient. The AIVD is to continually ask itself: is it strictly necessary? And are we very certain that there are no lighter measures at our disposal? The enforcement of those very powers is verifiable afterwards. Apart from opening letters (this falls under the Dutch Postal Act) there is no investigative magistrate involved. However, for the use of every special intelligence power the approval by the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations or by the Head of the AIVD on behalf of the Minister is required. Moreover, every new employee of the AIVD gets a basic education through which he or she is being taught, among other things, about the Wiv2002. In this context, Bertholee relates an interesting anecdote: once in a while the AIVD invites a number of journalists, members of Parliament or jurists to discuss a case. It turns out that those not working for the AIVD are more inclined to allow the use of special powers than the AIVD employees themselves. As an answer to a question from the audience, Bertholee says that he himself gave an explanation about the Wiv2002 to Interior Minister Liesbeth Spies, just one and a half hours after she was sworn in by Queen Beatrix. "We have no rules of our own, we abide to what is written in the law," Bertholee says. He goes on telling about the process that sees the deployment of a special power: it starts with an employee who wants to use a special power for an AIVD investigation. The employee is to account for his request in writing and an AIVD operational lawyer looks into it. The request is then sent to a supervisor, after which it is forwarded to Bertholee. Finally, the request ends up at the desk of the Interior Minister. This happens case by case, always taking the prerequisites of the Wiv2002 into consideration. No form of pressure is allowed in the event the AIVD makes a request for information to citizens. The same goes for requesting information to journalists: it is entirely up to them to cooperate or not. "If a journalist is not willing to cooperate, then that’s a pity for the AIVD and that’s where things end", Bertholee explains. However, some (parts of) conversations are being registered in a memo since everything needs to be verifiable for the AIVD.

Supervisory mechanisms

Bertholee tells about the way the AIVD is monitored by various bodies that each play their own role. First of all there’s the Dutch Parliamentary Commission for Intelligence and Security Services ('Commissie Stiekem') which consists of all the leaders of Parliamentary parties. Then there’s the (public) Parliamentary Commission for the Interior. The legality of the execution of tasks by the AIVD is scrutinised by the Dutch Review Committee on the Intelligence and Security Services (Commissie van Toezicht betreffende de Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdiensten, CTIVD); this is an independent supervisory body which consists mainly of legal experts. According to Bertholee, in recent years the CTIVD assessments on the AIVD have largely been positive. Furthermore, the Netherlands Court of Audit (Algemene Rekenkamer) examines the (secret) budget of the AIVD. Both the CTIVD as well as the Court of Audit have access to everything within the AIVD.

Revision of the Wiv2002

With regard to a possible revision of the Wiv2002, Bertholee remarks that the legal space currently offered is sufficient for the AIVD and that he doesn’t need more powers. However, he does think it is "particular" that the Wiv2002 is in some aspects related to the Dutch Postal Act and to the Telecom Act, which makes it necessary for the AIVD to get the permission of an investigative judge to open a letter, while that same permission is not required for intercepting or opening an email. Hence the legislation is technology-dependent and "something needs to be done about that", Bertholee states. Besides, the CTIVD has proposed to change the legislation with regard to SIGINT (Signals Intelligence). Furthermore, Parliament may evaluate the Wiv2002 in the near future. It seems there are two thorny issues at the moment: a possible ban on using journalists as informants and more control over the effectiveness of the AIVD. The difficult thing is that the effectiveness of an organisation like the AIVD is hard to measure; this is related to the nature of the work and the type of threats that are being averted. Bertholee: "I accept that life has certain risks. The question, however, is what society wants. How many casualties per year do you find acceptable?"

No Big Brother

Confronted with a question from the audience about new, predictive technologies and the effect that these can have on social behaviour, Bertholee makes clear "not to be in favour of Big Brother. There are limits to what you can and what you cannot do. This is also related to the risks that you are willing to take as a society." Bertholee responds to another question from the audience saying that a special power may only be used as long as it's necessary. When the necessity (i.e. the reason or threat) ceases to exist, the authority to use a special power ceases to exist as well. The CTIVD keeps an eye on that. Five years after a special power has been used, a duty of notification towards the citizen involved applies, unless this could reveal relevant sources or a current operational method. However, this duty to notify has so far never been used. In fact, Bertholee wonders whether such a notification could actually be experienced as an assault on one’s private life in case there was nothing going on with the person concerned.

Rob Bertholee

International exchange

The Wiv2002 remains applicable to the international exchange of intelligence between the AIVD and foreign secret services, Bertholee explains. Furthermore, an international code of conduct applies. The exchange of intelligence is examined from case to case and from country to country. In the event of exchange, what is allowed to happen with the intelligence in question is being indicated. Internationally this is being adhered to pretty well, according to Bertholee. However, in some cases, or rather, with some countries the exchange of intelligence could become a dilemma...

Drawing the line where violence starts

One question relates to the degree to which activists figure in AIVD files. Bertholee explains that, in principle, the AIVD conducts no investigations into activists. "We don’t care what someone thinks. We do not represent the moral high ground of the Netherlands. It is only when violence comes into play - or calls for violence, clear intentions towards violence, radicalisation - that we feel involved."

Current risks

During the discussion with the audience Bertholee emphasizes that it’s not the aim of the AIVD to collect as much data as possible. The aim is rather to collect the right information in order to be able to fend off threats. It is not the AIVD, but the industry that is the driving force behind the development of information technology that, unfortunately, is also used in less democratic countries. In response to a question Bertholee admits that there is a risk that a service like the AIVD could 'drown' in an abundance of data. Biometrics are one such development of new technology. This makes it more difficult to assume a new identity, both for people with bad intentions as well as for officers of the AIVD itself. Furthermore, the privatisation of intelligence is risky, especially due to the lack of legislative checks and balances.

Finally

Bertholee finishes his speech by emphasizing once more that the AIVD 1) doesn’t keep records of everyone, 2) doesn’t wiretap everyone, 3) shoots nobody, 4) doesn’t arrest anyone, 5) doesn’t force cars into the kerb, 6) doesn’t torture anyone, 7) doesn’t hack into every computer, 8) has no enforcement powers, 9) doesn’t put pressure on people and 10) doesn’t recruit journalists. Then Privacy First chairman Filippini rounds off the night and invites everyone present for drinks with music.

Handover of the book 'The digital shadow' and a bottle of wine by Bas Filippini to Rob Bertholee

 

Postscript Privacy First: as international peace and security often benefit from dialogue between 'opponents', the same goes in our country for a good relationship between the government and civil rights organisations like Privacy First. In that sense we consider this night to have been very valuable and we hope that the AIVD deems this event to be worth repeating in the future!

Screenshot AIVD website 14 September 2012

Update 27 September 2012: as a result of Bertholee's speech, a second article appeared in Dutch newspaper Telegraaf.

Published in Meta-Privacy

The appeal by Privacy First and 19 citizens against the Dutch government takes place today. Privacy First is of the opinion that the new Dutch Passport Act violates the right to privacy. Despite criticism from the Dutch House of Representatives, the Dutch government recently decided to push this controversial law ahead. The case of Privacy First primarily concentrates on the centralised storage of fingerprints. This lawsuit is the first of its kind.

Clarification
On February 2, 2011, the Privacy First Foundation and 21 co-plaintiffs (citizens) were declared inadmissible by the district court of The Hague in our civil case against the Netherlands regarding the 2009 Dutch Passport Act. A proposal by the Dutch Minister of the Interior, Ms. Liesbeth Spies, to revise the Passport Act has been presented to the House of Representatives on 17 October this year. However, in this legislative proposal the original provision (Article 4b) concerning a centralised database remains intact for the greater part. Under this provision, biometric data of every Dutch citizen will be used for criminal investigation and prosecution purposes as well as intelligence work, disaster control and counter-terrorism. This constitutes a flagrant violation of, among other things, European privacy law. Efforts by individual citizens to challenge this through individual administrative court cases have thus far not yielded any results, since the administrative courts proved unwilling to evaluate the provision in question. Nevertheless, the Dutch Council of State (Raad van State) has recently made a preliminary reference to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg regarding the European Passport Regulation. In anticipation of the Court’s response, all Dutch administrative proceedings have been put on hold for at least one and a half years, which means that protesting citizens have to fend for themselves during that period without valid identity documents. Enough reason for Privacy First to again haul up the civil-law sails in the public interest and to appeal in our Passport Act lawsuit.

To that end we have today presented our Statement of Appeal to the Court of Appeal in The Hague. In this Statement Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm and Vita Zwaan (SOLV Attorneys) outline why Privacy First and co-plaintiffs have to be declared admissible. Subsequently, it will be possible for the Passport Act to be legally scrutinized in its entirety by the court and be measured up against higher law, including European privacy legislation. Our entire Statement of Appeal can be downloaded HERE (in Dutch). The Appeals Court of The Hague is expected to deliver its judgment before the summer.

Urgent appeal
Privacy First makes an urgent appeal to all Dutch citizens to contribute to the financing of this lawsuit. This can be done by donating on account number 49.55.27.521 attn. Stichting Privacy First in Amsterdam, mentioning the following reference: ‘Paspoortproces’. We kindly thank you for your support!

Published in Litigation

The Privacy First Foundation has, with pleasure, just taken cognisance of 1) the announcement earlier today of a Dutch legislative proposal to abrogate fingerprints in ID cards and 2) the decision by the Dutch Council of State (Raad van State) to make a request for a preliminary ruling to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg on the legality and interpretation of the European Passport Regulation in four administrative cases of individual Dutch citizens. The Privacy First Foundation hereby makes an appeal to Dutch Parliament to adopt the legislative proposal to abrogate fingerprints in ID cards as soon as possible. In anticipation of the expected adoption of this legislative proposal, taking people's fingerprints for ID cards must be halted immediately or at least become voluntary as a temporary solution. Privacy First also hopes that the European Court of Justice will swiftly deal with the preliminary reference and conclude that taking fingerprints for passports and ID cards is unlawful because it violates the right to privacy. Further comments by Privacy First will follow.    

Update 18.00h: listen to the interview (in Dutch) with Privacy First on Radio 1.

Update 29 September 2012: see also our reaction in the Dutch regional press.

Published in Biometrics

This Tuesday afternoon it is expected that the Dutch House of Representatives will vote in favour of two important motions. The first motion urges the Dutch government to have the European Passport Regulation critically discussed in Brussels. The second motion appeals to the government to take a firm stand in Brussels for there to be a critical reaction to American extraterritorial legislation, such as the notorious US Patriot Act. Both motions have come into being partly as a result of earlier reports by Privacy First about 1) the futility of taking fingerprints for passports and ID-cards and 2) the risk of Dutch fingerprints secretly ending up in foreign hands.  

The current taking of fingerprints is the result of the European Passport Regulation. This regulation dates back to the end of 2004 and primarily came into existence under pressure of the American Bush administration. Back then there was hardly any critical discussion about the benefits and necessity of taking people's fingerprints for travel documents. At the time the responsible rapporteur of the European Parliament wasn’t even able to bring out into the open statistics about this matter, as was recently revealed through a FOIA-request filed by Privacy First. Soon it will be up to the European Commission to still prove the effectiveness of the Passport Regulation. In case the Commission fails in doing so, the Regulation should be discarded immediately.

Apart from fingerprints, the long arm of the Bush administration has for years been reaching deep into the heart of Europe. With the American Patriot Act in force, the US government acquired, among other things, the power to obtain information from European companies that are situated in America as well. But this piece of legal imperialism was nothing new for the Americans: in the American 'war on drugs', American powers have been reaching far across US land and sea borders for decades. Since 2001, the Patriot Act has extended this extraterritorial circus to the American 'war on terror'. The 2002 The Hague Invasion Act has the same colonial touch to it: under this law the American administration reserves the right to keep Americans out of the hands of the International Criminal Court, if needed by invading The Hague. Another, more recent example is the National Defence Authorization Act: this law provides the US army with the power to arrest 'terror suspects' anywhere in the world and put them in military detention without any form of due process for an unlimited period of time.

In recent years Washington has hardly cared about the jurisdiction of other countries and international law. It has been generally known that in the long run this could only lead to excesses. Therefore it’s an absolute mystery to Privacy First what led the Dutch government to extend the contracts with the French passport manufacturer Morpho (partially situated in the US) without the guarantee that the fingerprints of Dutch citizens could not end up in American (or other foreign) hands. It is now up to the Dutch government to still protect its citizens and to request the European Commission to do the same thing at the European level.

Update: Both motions have been adopted by the House of Representatives with an overwhelming majority! You can find a video of it HERE (in Dutch, starting at 9m55s). Only the right-wing Party for Freedom (PVV) rejected the motions.

Published in Law & Politics
These days, of all human rights the right to privacy finds itself under the most pressure. Therefore, it is of great importance that the government, being the largest privacy violator, is tightly controlled by means of proper legislation. With good checks & balances, for the government itself as well as for monitoring possible privacy violators such as Microsoft, Google, Apple and large ICT companies like Cisco and Intergraph that set up entire electronic surveillance infrastructures in China.

Under the ‘principle of security’, current Western democracies are increasingly being led by suspicion, hate and control instead of the principles of trust, love and freedom. And all of this to protect those last three mentioned? In the view of Privacy First, the line in the sand has already been drawn in 2001. Under the guise of security our legislation has been heavily modified to the disadvantage of individual citizens and through function creep the boundaries of the application of this legislation are continuously being stretched. Will loitering youth and football hooligans soon be seen as criminal or terrorist organisations under our judicial system? And what about everyone who thinks or acts differently? Where can we draw the line? And who makes the decisions over this? And who will scrutinize the decision maker and the executor?

At the moment, it is under the big heading of ‘profiling’ that ever more privacy violations take place. The aim of profiling is tracking entire populations or target groups in order to identify so-called 'outliers' through criteria and norms that are to be imposed. Outliers are deviations from the norm: people who behave differently than the ‘normal group’, or a specific group the government has set its eyes upon, whoever it may concern. People who have unpaid bills, who drive too fast, who gather in groups, attorneys, journalists, activists, airplane passengers, those entitled to public aid, sect members, etc. Just identify and track them, you never know if there’s someone amongst them who hasn’t abided by the rules or who fits a certain profile you’re looking for.

Profiling is characterised by four aspects that in our perception are in conflict with the Dutch Constitution as the basis for our constitutional State:

  • The reversion of a fundamental principle of law: citizens are tracked en masse without a concrete, reasonable suspicion of a crime. Through profiling everyone becomes a potential suspect and everyone’s privacy can be violated unpunished.
  • With the current state of technology, profiling is aimed at continuous, real-time identification instead of passive registration and analysis of data of a citizen under reasonable suspicion. So we move from registration to identification, without the authorization and awareness of the trustful citizen. In this way, out of its own distrust the government abuses the good faith of citizens and in so doing imposes its own standard criteria. Without any democratic evaluation or strict legal guarantees.
  • The application of the technology used for profiling is based on the principle that ‘everything’s allowed if it’s technically possible’. For the greater part this development is invisible for citizens. Subway stations, trains, busses, trams, inner cities, police helmets and even parking machines (!) in Amsterdam are incessantly being equipped with cameras. These are linked to central control rooms and, where possible, fitted with identification and pattern recognition software in order to be able to directly perceive ‘suspicious matters’. The mantra of our government: ‘ill doers are ill deemers’.
  • Increasing restrictions to internet freedom of companies and individuals. Since 2010 all our personal telephone and email correspondence are being stored. All this is being done to prepare for profiling. At the moment the US Congress is working on a legislative proposal (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, CISPA) which grants private businesses and the US government the right to spy on citizens at any given moment and for as long as they want and to report them in case there are ‘outliers’. All of this without the need for a warrant. WikiLeaks, child porn, copying illegal content and the like are all too readily used to introduce new legislation to further restrict our internet freedom and which is to be applied in other areas the government wants to have control over. Preferably on a worldwide scale, without any democratic scrutiny. The government obliges citizens to increasingly use online services: the Citizen ‘Service’ (Control that is) Number (in Dutch: Burger Service Nummer, BSN), the Electronic Child File (Elektronisch Kind Dossier, EKD/DDJGZ), the Electronic Student File (Elektronisch Leerlingen Dossier, ELD), Diagnosis Treatment Combinations in healthcare (Diagnose Behandel Combinaties, DBC’s), etc. Of every citizen an ‘electronic life file’ comes into existence which in conjunction with electronic traces are to become able to predict suspect or deviant behaviour. Preferably in real-time and online. All of this, naturally, to protect our freedom...

In case fingerprints in passports will be replaced by new biometric features, the road will be cleared for a much worse form of profiling. Through the use of facial scans in databases, citizens will be able to be identified and tracked in public spaces in real-time and to be singled out through profiling on the basis of criteria predetermined by ‘someone’. In this process the government deliberately focuses on modifying the technology. As a result, there is 'fortunately' no need to talk about whether or not biometrics are actually desirable in our society, and if so, under which conditions and guarantees. Privacy First advocates for 'privacy by design' and privacy enhanced technologies as well as strict legislation with regard to biometrics and profiling. Because we don’t want to leave our children behind in an electronic concentration camp...

For a free, open and vivid 2012!

Bas Filippini,
Chairman of the Privacy First Foundation

Postscript: in the context of the National Privacy Debate, this column has also been published (in Dutch) as an Opinion by Dutch web-magazine Webwereld: http://webwereld.nl/opinie/110383/profiling-het-grootste-gevaar-voor-privacy--opinie-.html and http://nationaalprivacydebat.nl/article/ww/110383/profiling-het-grootste-gevaar-voor-privacy-opinie

Published in Profiling

The following article by Privacy First employee Vincent Böhre was published this month in the periodical De Filosoof (‘The Philosopher’, University of Utrecht). Tomorrow the Dutch Passport Act will be high on the Dutch political agenda: in a debate with the Minister of the Interior Liesbeth Spies the compulsory taking of fingerprints for Dutch passports and ID cards will be discussed. Privacy First has recently (again) emphasized to all political parties in the Dutch House of Representatives to have passports without fingerprints introduced as soon as possible and to make a request to the government to have the Passport Regulation revised at the European level. This in order for the compulsory taking of fingerprints to be done away with also for passports, or at least to become of a voluntarily nature. The text below offers a quick recap with a positive twist. A pdf version of the original article in Dutch can be found HERE (pp. 6-7).

The biometric passport as an unintended privacy gift

‘‘Late 2001, the Christian-democratic political party CDA proposed storing the fingerprints of every Dutch citizen through passports for criminal investigation purposes. However, this proposal was immediately scrapped by other political parties because it would lead to a Big Brother society. Nonetheless, an even more far-reaching proposal became law seven years later almost inconspicuously. Under the new Dutch Passport Act, apart from criminal investigation and prosecution, everyone’s fingerprints and facial scan (biometric data) could also be used for counter-terrorism, domestic and foreign State security, disaster control and personal identification. However, none of these legal purposes had been discussed in Parliament.[1] In fact, the new Passport Act was accepted by the Senate even without a vote. The media merely stood by and watched how it happened. How could things have gotten this far?

‘Bystander syndrome’

In a certain way the Passport Act was (and is) emblematic for the Dutch era after '9/11'. An era in which (presupposed) anti-terrorism measures could be steered through Parliament with the greatest of ease. After all, such measures would enhance our security, we were continuously told. By nature people are inclined to believe the authorities and to accept the status quo. From a human rights point of view, one could consider the post-9/11 era as a huge Milgram experiment: without too much resistance many human rights have for years been put to the rack of society. The realization of the new Passport Act is no exception. Every Member of the Senate could at least have made a request for a parliamentary vote. Journalists and scientists could have blown the whistle on time. Instead, they all stood there and watched since, of course, the law would make the Netherlands a ‘more secure’ place. But what was this assumption based on? Wasn’t the Netherlands actually going to be less secure by the massive storage of fingerprints in travel documents and affiliated databases? This question has never been asked in public, let alone discussed and answered.

Disproportionate

The prime argument by the Dutch government for the introduction of fingerprints in passports and ID cards has, since the late 90s, been the following: it would prevent look-alike fraud with travel documents. Look-alike fraud is a form of abuse whereby someone uses an authentic travel document of someone else to whom his or her appearance resembles. Questions about the scale of this type of fraud have hardly ever been asked in Parliament. From a recent FOIA-request filed by Privacy First, it appeared that we’re dealing with only a few dozen cases each year (with Dutch travel documents on Dutch territory).[2] In light thereof the introduction of fingerprints in travel documents of 17 million Dutch citizens is completely disproportionate. Not to mention the dozens, if not hundreds of millions of Euros that the government has spent on this project.

Risks

With the introduction of a ‘biometric identity infrastructure’ a new form of fraud comes to life that is extremely difficult to trace and combat: biometric identity fraud, for instance through hacking. Not just with guileless citizens and companies, but also in the public sphere (espionage). Moreover, it has been pointed out that in 21-25% of cases the biometric data in the chip of Dutch travel documents cannot be read (verified). So in the event of passport control, there is a high risk that citizens become unjustly suspected of fraud. The biometric passport is no good for combating terrorism either: terrorists generally use their own, authentic travel documents. Unfortunately, little is publicly known about the way security and intelligence agencies use biometrics, even though some purposes are easy to predict: identification of suspects unwilling to speak and ‘interesting’ persons in public space, the recognition of emotions, lie detection and the recognition or use of doubles. The same applies to the domain of criminal investigation and prosecution, also in conjunction with camera surveillance and automatic facial recognition. In addition, the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)-aspect of the chip in the document enables it to be read from a distance: citizens can be identified and tracked without it being noticed. With regard to personal identification, one could think of the possible introduction of fingerprints at banks, social services, the internet, etc. (Since the end of last year, a Dutch pilot project with mobile finger scanners for the police is ongoing.) Finally, there’s the domain of fighting disasters: biometrics used for the identification of casualties in the event of large-scale disasters or as a logistic means. All in all these possibilities for the use of biometrics go dozens, if not a hundred steps beyond the mere combating of look-alike fraud with travel documents. One ought to realize that all of these possibilities will sooner or later be put into practice. In jargon this is called ‘function creep’; historically seen it’s inevitable. Scientific research into future applications of biometrics continuously takes place. What’s more, even in our part of the world a democratic constitutional State is no invariable matter of fact. It is therefore very dubious whether our world will become ‘more secure’ by the large-scale use of biometrics.  

Positive change

It is exactly this concern which brought about a small Dutch revolution in the summer of 2009: at the time, the enactment of the new Passport Act led to a torrent of criticism and to the coming into being of the current Dutch privacy movement. New privacy organizations such as Privacy First proliferated, social coalitions were forged and lawsuits against the new Passport Act were filed.[3] This boomerang effect within society continues to this day. Since that time the right to privacy is ever higher on the societal and political agenda. In that sense the biometric passport has so far proved to be an unintended gift from heaven.''



[1]
See Vincent Böhre, Happy Landings? Het biometrische paspoort als zwarte doos (Happy landings? The biometric passport as a black box), Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid, WRR (Scientific Council for Government Policy) October 2010, http://www.wrr.nl/publicaties/publicatie/article/happy-landings-het-biometrische-paspoort-als-zwarte-doos-46/.
[2]
See Privacy First, Revealing figures about look-alike fraud with Dutch travel documents (20 March 2012).
[3]
See Böhre supra footnote 1, p. 111 ff.
Published in Meta-Privacy
These days, of all human rights the right to privacy finds itself under the most pressure. Therefore, it is of great importance that the government, being the largest privacy violator, is tightly controlled by means of proper legislation. With good checks & balances, for the government itself as well as for monitoring possible privacy violators such as Microsoft, Google, Apple and large ICT companies like Cisco and Intergraph that set up entire electronic surveillance infrastructures in China.

Under the ‘principle of security’, current Western democracies are increasingly being led by suspicion, hate and control instead of the principles of trust, love and freedom. And all of this to protect those last three mentioned? In the view of Privacy First, the line in the sand has already been drawn in 2001. Under the guise of security our legislation has been heavily modified to the disadvantage of individual citizens and through function creep the boundaries of the application of this legislation are continuously being stretched. Will loitering youth and football hooligans soon be seen as criminal or terrorist organisations under our judicial system? And what about everyone who thinks or acts differently? Where can we draw the line? And who makes the decisions over this? And who will scrutinize the decision maker and the executor?

At the moment, it is under the big heading of ‘profiling’ that ever more privacy violations take place. The aim of profiling is tracking entire populations or target groups in order to identify so-called 'outliers' through criteria and norms that are to be imposed. Outliers are deviations from the norm: people who behave differently than the ‘normal group’, or a specific group the government has set its eyes upon, whoever it may concern. People who have unpaid bills, who drive too fast, who gather in groups, attorneys, journalists, activists, airplane passengers, those entitled to public aid, sect members, etc. Just identify and track them, you never know if there’s someone amongst them who hasn’t abided by the rules or who fits a certain profile you’re looking for.

Profiling is characterised by four aspects that in our perception are in conflict with the Dutch Constitution as the basis for our constitutional State:

  • The reversion of a fundamental principle of law: citizens are tracked en masse without a concrete, reasonable suspicion of a crime. Through profiling everyone becomes a potential suspect and everyone’s privacy can be violated unpunished.
  • With the current state of technology, profiling is aimed at continuous, real-time identification instead of passive registration and analysis of data of a citizen under reasonable suspicion. So we move from registration to identification, without the authorization and awareness of the trustful citizen. In this way, out of its own distrust the government abuses the good faith of citizens and in so doing imposes its own standard criteria. Without any democratic evaluation or strict legal guarantees.
  • The application of the technology used for profiling is based on the principle that ‘everything’s allowed if it’s technically possible’. For the greater part this development is invisible for citizens. Subway stations, trains, busses, trams, inner cities, police helmets and even parking machines (!) in Amsterdam are incessantly being equipped with cameras. These are linked to central control rooms and, where possible, fitted with identification and pattern recognition software in order to be able to directly perceive ‘suspicious matters’. The mantra of our government: ‘ill doers are ill deemers’.
  • Increasing restrictions to internet freedom of companies and individuals. Since 2010 all our personal telephone and email correspondence are being stored. All this is being done to prepare for profiling. At the moment the US Congress is working on a legislative proposal (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, CISPA) which grants private businesses and the US government the right to spy on citizens at any given moment and for as long as they want and to report them in case there are ‘outliers’. All of this without the need for a warrant. WikiLeaks, child porn, copying illegal content and the like are all too readily used to introduce new legislation to further restrict our internet freedom and which is to be applied in other areas the government wants to have control over. Preferably on a worldwide scale, without any democratic scrutiny. The government obliges citizens to increasingly use online services: the Citizen ‘Service’ (Control that is) Number (in Dutch: Burger Service Nummer, BSN), the Electronic Child File (Elektronisch Kind Dossier, EKD/DDJGZ), the Electronic Student File (Elektronisch Leerlingen Dossier, ELD), Diagnosis Treatment Combinations in healthcare (Diagnose Behandel Combinaties, DBC’s), etc. Of every citizen an ‘electronic life file’ comes into existence which in conjunction with electronic traces are to become able to predict suspect or deviant behaviour. Preferably in real-time and online. All of this, naturally, to protect our freedom...

In case fingerprints in passports will be replaced by new biometric features, the road will be cleared for a much worse form of profiling. Through the use of facial scans in databases, citizens will be able to be identified and tracked in public spaces in real-time and to be singled out through profiling on the basis of criteria predetermined by ‘someone’. In this process the government deliberately focuses on modifying the technology. As a result, there is 'fortunately' no need to talk about whether or not biometrics are actually desirable in our society, and if so, under which conditions and guarantees. Privacy First advocates for 'privacy by design' and privacy enhanced technologies as well as strict legislation with regard to biometrics and profiling. Because we don’t want to leave our children behind in an electronic concentration camp...

For a free, open and vivid 2012!

Bas Filippini,
Chairman of the Privacy First Foundation

Postscript: in the context of the National Privacy Debate, this column has also been published (in Dutch) as an Opinion by Dutch web-magazine Webwereld: http://webwereld.nl/opinie/110383/profiling-het-grootste-gevaar-voor-privacy--opinie-.html and http://nationaalprivacydebat.nl/article/ww/110383/profiling-het-grootste-gevaar-voor-privacy-opinie

Published in Columns
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