Netherlands Looks To Join The Super-Snooper Club With New Mass Surveillance Law

from the but-it-ain't-over-until-the-CJEU-rules dept

As Techdirt has noted, the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act, better known as the Snooper’s Charter, has been dubbed “the most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy.” It may be the worst, but it’s not an isolated case. Governments around the world are bringing in laws that grant them powers to spy on innocent citizens using “bulk collection” of information — mass surveillance, in other words. As the Dutch site Bits of Freedom reports, the latest country to join the super-snooper club is the Netherlands, where the lower house has just passed the bill for the new Intelligence and Security Services Act:

The controversial new law will allow intelligence services to systematically conduct mass surveillance of the internet. The current legal framework allows security agencies to collect data in a targeted fashion. The new law will significantly broaden the agencies’ powers to include bulk data collection. This development clears the way for the interception of the communication of innocent citizens.

Another worrying trend is for spies around the world to pass on information they have gathered to intelligence services in other countries. The Dutch law is particularly bad in this respect, for the following reason:

Under the passed bill, Dutch security agencies may also share collected data without having analyzed it first. But when we hand over data to foreign governments without performing some form of data analysis prior to the exchange, we run the risk of not knowing what potentially sensitive information falls into foreign hands, and the consequences that might have for citizens.

The Bits of Freedom post also notes that much in the proposed law has yet to be defined, which is hardly a happy state of affairs. That includes limitations on the powers and how oversight will be carried out. However, more positively, among the revisions made to the bill when it was put out for public consultation in 2015 are some important improvements. Here’s what happens next:

It’s now the Senate’s turn to review the bill. A bill that, in all likelihood, will not meet the minimum safeguards dictated by European law. If the parliamentary groups in the upper house abide by those in the lower house, the bill will be cleared with a comfortable majority.

The mention of the safeguards of European law is significant. As we reported in December, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) confirmed that general and indiscriminate data retention is illegal in the EU. Assuming the Dutch law is passed as expected, a legal challenge at the CJEU could follow, and would seem to stand a good chance of getting the law struck down in its present form.

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Comments on “Netherlands Looks To Join The Super-Snooper Club With New Mass Surveillance Law”

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14 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

here we go again...

“the most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy.”

Calling things, that are not democracy a democracy. I am not well versed in UK law, but last I checked, Citizens still don’t vote on the law. Laws are still passed by a “parliamentary constitutional monarchy” for both the UK and the Netherlands.

The general failure to call things what they are does cause problems. I understand the motivation though, people are so bent on the subject that they want to keep the “idea” of democracy in the forefront in hopes that some nation will become dumb enough to actually have one so they can rejoice and try stick it in everyone’s eye. And that is fine, but don’t hold your breath… that nation will commit suicide for the whole world to see soon enough, proving that democracy is a fairy tale told by ignorant dreamers that have not a clue about how things work.

Anonymous Howard II says:

Re: Re: Re: here we go again...

I’m attempting an argument.

We elect people to run the country on our behalf.

If people object to the Snoopers’ Charter* they can vote the Conservatives out in favour of anyone who promises to repeal it. They won’t, for various reasons (distressingly many people are taken in by the “but terrorism” line, the only other party likely to win an election fully supports the SC, and many people have dogmatic voting habits), but it’s certainly not for lack of opportunity.

It’s a flawed democracy (they all are, FWIW), but it’s still a democracy.

(* I prefer Snoopers’ Charter to Snooper’s Charter because I feel a plural possessive more accurately reflects the many government agencies which have unrestricted access to data)

Median Wilfred says:

Why is this a trend?

Why is Super Snooping a trend? We’ve got the USA almost certainly doing universal surveillance (probably illegally), UK, maybe the other Five Eyes countries, and now NL. What the heck? The citizenry is quite against this sort of thing, and the justifications given (crime, terrorism) don’t hold up to any scrutiny. So what’s the real reason for universal, creepy hidden surveillance? I can make a joke by asking if NSA and GCHQ et all need porn, but that marginalizes the question.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Why is this a trend?

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

That’s why, Wilfred. There’s a gazillion bucks to be made by scaring governments into believing that terrorists are plotting against them on the internet and that the only solution is to put the whole damn world under surveillance.

These programs are generally administered by private contractors whose top-tier directors, etc., come from government departments. That’s where the problem is, people.

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