Thanks to a FOIA-request by the Privacy First Foundation, the official figures about look-alike fraud with Dutch passports and ID-cards have today, for the first time, become public. From these figures it emerges that the Dutch biometric passport with fingerprints is an absolutely disproportionate measure, the introduction of which should never have been allowed.

The primary argument from the Dutch government for introducing fingerprints in passports and ID-cards has for years been the same: fighting look-alike fraud. Look-alike fraud is a form of abuse whereby someone uses an authentic travel document of someone else to whom his appearance resembles. This kind of swindler is also called an impostor. Questions about the scale of this type of fraud have hardly ever been asked, not by members of Dutch Parliament, nor by scientists or journalists. Those who raised a question about it in the last ten years were usually provided with an answer that left them none the wiser: figures about look-alike fraud would be ‘unknown’, ‘not publicly available’, ‘confidential’, or ‘secret’. The answer to the most recent parliamentary question in this respect dates back to October 2010:

- Question: ‘‘Is it true that the figures of look-alike fraud with ID documents are known, but that you are unwilling to provide them to the House of Representatives? Are you actually prepared to provide these figures to the House of Representatives?’’
- Answer by Dutch State Secretary Ank Bijleveld (Ministry of the Interior): ‘‘No, this is not true. Since such figures are unknown to me, it’s obvious I cannot send them to you.’’ (Dutch source)

Those who have been asking supplementary questions in recent years were often told we would be facing a massive phenomenon. In this way the idea of a 'dark figure' of crime of almost mythical proportions came into existence. That is to say, without any trace of evidence. So recently the Privacy First Foundation filed a FOIA-request to the department of the Dutch government that has been keeping track of the figures on look-alike fraud for years: the Dutch Expertise Centre on Identity fraud and Documents (Expertisecentrum Identiteitsfraude & Documenten, ECID) based at Schiphol Airport. The ECID falls under the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee (KMar) and is thus part of the Dutch Ministry of Defence. Privacy First knew from a reliable source that those figures could be found in the clear annual reports of the ECID from 2008 onwards. So recently we have simply made a request for those reports by email. Subsequently Privacy First received the Statistic Annual Overviews on Document Fraud (Statistische Jaaroverzichten Documentfraude) from 2008 to 2010 from the Ministry of Defence. (Update: the statistics from 2011 followed on 29 May 2012.) The following figures result from these annual reports relating to look-alike fraud with Dutch passports and ID-cards on Dutch soil:   

2008: 46 cases (source: Statistisch Jaaroverzicht Documentfraude 2008, p. 45)

2009: 33 cases (source: Statistisch Jaaroverzicht Documentfraude 2009, pp. 42-43)

2010: 21 cases (source: Statistisch Jaaroverzicht Documentfraude 2010, pp. 52-53)

2011: 19 cases (source: Statistisch Jaaroverzicht Documentfraude 2011, pp. 52-53).

The Netherlands has 17 million inhabitants. By now almost 7.5 million of those had their fingerprints taken to combat a handful of cases of look-alike fraud. By any standard this is a completely disproportionate situation and thereby forms a collective violation of the right to privacy of all Dutch citizens. Privacy First regards these figures as a strong backing in its lawsuit against the Dutch government regarding the new Dutch Passport Act and hereby makes a call to the government to immediately stop the compulsory taking of fingerprints for passports and ID-cards. Regardless of whether or not that’s against European policy.

Update 22 March 2012: At first Privacy First showed the numbers 63 (2009) and 52 (2010). However, those figures were based on a calculating error (they were counted twice), for which we apologise.  

Update 30 March 2012: internal documents from the Dutch Ministry of the Interior from 2004 also imply a relatively low figure for fraud and, moreover, high costs for introducing biometric technology in travel documents. Privacy First recently obtained these documents through a large-scale FOIA investigation that has been ongoing since April 2011.

Update 29 May 2012: Today Privacy First finally received the long-awaited Statistisch Jaaroverzicht Documentfraude 2011 from the Dutch Ministry of Defence. The number of cases of look-alike fraud with Dutch passports and ID-cards on Dutch soil (as far as the KMar is aware) according to this report were respectively... 11 and 8, so just 19 in total. We have updated the list of cases from 2008 to 2010 above with the figures from 2011. So the idea of look-alike fraud as a very small-scale phenomenon is once more confirmed. To burden the entire Dutch population with biometric passports and ID-cards as a countermeasure is and will be completely disproportionate and therefore unlawful.

Published in FOIA Requests

Today Privacy First sent the following email to the Electronic Health Record spokespersons in the Dutch House of Representatives: 

Dear Members of Parliament,

On Tuesday 13 December 2012 an important General Meeting with Minister Edith Schippers about the Electronic Health Record (Elektronisch Patiëntendossier, EPD) will take place. The Privacy First Foundation is keen to provide you with the following points of interest in order for you to prepare for and make possible contributions to the debate:

1) As far as Privacy First is aware, at the moment one is working towards an opportunistic spurious solution along private lines, namely a regional exchange of data through the National Switch Point (Landelijk Schakelpunt, LSP). By definition this leads to function creep by design. The digital ‘regional walls’ in and around the LSP can of course easily be circumvented or removed. Therefore the entire system can take on its old central form again at any given moment in the future, with all the privacy and security risks this entails.   

2) Those same risks around the LSP will neither be annulled by henceforth indicating the EPD as a ‘Personal Health Record’ (Persoonlijk Gezondheidsdossier, PGD). This is merely privacy by semantics which, moreover, has a misleading effect. Indeed, the infrastructure that’s behind the LSP remains virtually unchanged.

3) A privacy-friendly EPD first of all demands an independent Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) by which various solutions characterized by privacy by design can be established. As long as such a PIA has not been conducted and subsequently evaluated in Parliament, no irrevocable steps regarding the design and possible extension of the EPD are to be taken. 

4) When further designing the EPD, it is absolutely key to leave space for research, innovation and competition. The recent DigiNotar affair shows that dependence on one party (or a select group of parties) is to be avoided. Apart from suboptimal, privacy-unfriendly products, this prevents cartel formations.

5) Apart from proper security, privacy-friendly transparency for patients also requires individual freedom of choice. Access by patients to their own records, for example, is not to be made dependent on the linking up with the LSP. Such access via the internet also creates new privacy related risks.

6) Within the governance structure around the EPD, independent privacy and security experts are to be appointed.

7) In terms of human rights the Netherlands continues to be unabatedly responsible for the protection of the medical privacy of its citizens, even in the event of a privatized EPD. At the initiative of Privacy First the Netherlands will have to be able to account for this in front of the United Nations Human Rights Council in May 2012.

Yours faithfully,

The Privacy First Foundation

Published in Medical Privacy

Unfortunately it has been on the cards for weeks. Now it seems it will happen after all: a private restart of the Dutch national Electronic Health Record (Elektronisch Patiëntendossier, EPD). Albeit under the name ‘personal health record’ (privacy by semantics), which at first will above all be used ‘regionally’ and only with the permission of each individual patient. However, the underlying infrastructure (National Switch Point, in Dutch: Landelijk Schakelpunt, LSP) is still national in orientation and was voted down unanimously by the Dutch Senate earlier this year due to privacy objections. So by now the private EPD looks suspiciously like a nuclear transport with the LSP as its radioactive cargo. In anticipation of this development, Privacy First has recently (shortly before the reporting deadline) raised some issues with the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. At the end of May 2012, the Dutch human rights situation (including Dutch national privacy policy) will be on the agenda there. The Netherlands will then have to publicly explain which solutions it has found to still safeguard privacy around the EPD. For instance by implementing privacy by design in the coming months through technical compartmentalization, data minimalization, freedom of choice and transparency for patients. In that case perhaps the Netherlands will cut a good figure in Geneva after all...

Published in Medical Privacy

Privacy-wise these are turbulent times. Partly because of the pressure by Privacy First, a positive change is ongoing since last year. Privacy is higher up on the Dutch political agenda. Dutch media more often and more extensively report on privacy matters. This enhances privacy awareness among the Dutch population. It also reinforces our democratic constitutional State. Examples of positive developments are the abandonment of the electronic toll system (no ‘espionage units’ in cars), voluntary instead of compulsory ‘smart energy meters’, voluntary instead of compulsory body-scans at airports, abandonment of the storage of fingerprints under the Dutch Passport Act and the introduction of Privacy Impact Assessments for new legislation that invades the privacy of citizens. All of these developments go hand in hand with Privacy First’s motto: ‘‘your choice in a free society’’. Meanwhile, privacy restricting forces from the old days still have their say. Bad habits die hard. In recent months this became particularly obvious through developments towards a private restart of the Dutch Electronic Health Record (Elektronisch Patiëntendossier, EPD). Earlier this year the Senate had rightly binned the EPD. Apparently some policy makers and commercial parties are having none of this. With similar stubbornness others are currently trying to press through their old plans for Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) and camera surveillance along the Dutch border. These plans were already on the drawing board years ago, in a time in which privacy increasingly seemed to become a taboo. A time in which the American Bush administration was able to burden the entire European Union with biometric passports and associated databases. That time is over, but the heritage of that era still exerts its influence to this day...

In the meantime privacy is back where it once was. Privacy is the ‘‘new green.’’ In that respect advocates of the national EPD and ANPR are behaving like a bunch of old environmental polluters. They’re like rusty old factories from the 70s being teletransported to the year 2011, without them realizing it. The Dutch House of Representatives seemed to have a good sense for this when last week it unanimously accepted a motion about something that Privacy First has been emphasizing since its foundation: ‘‘Privacy by Design’’. In other words, incorporating privacy from scratch in a technical sense, at the micro level, through Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PET). In the view of Privacy First, however, the principle of ‘‘Privacy by Design’’ also applies to the meso- and macro-levels. That is to say, in an organizational and legislative sense. After all, this is the way you get to a privacy-friendly design as well as a privacy-friendly reality of a sustainable information society as a whole. Well, you can pursue your own line of thoughts here. As a source of inspiration Privacy First is pleased to provide the entire text of the parliamentary motion:

The House of Representatives,

on the advice of the deliberation,

considering that in ICT projects of the government there is too little attention for the protection of privacy and too little attention for the prevention of abuse of these systems;

considering that the privacy of citizens is not to be invaded any more than is strictly necessary and that insecure systems can put privacy in danger;

considering that systems that can easily be hacked seriously affect the reputation of government;

considering that modifying systems to safeguard privacy and enhancing security afterward, is usually more expensive and more often leads to a lower level of protection compared to when privacy and security are prerequisites from the outset of the project;  

requests the government to apply privacy by design and security by design in the development of all new ICT projects in order for new ICT systems to be more secure and better prepared against abuse and only to contain privacy-sensitive information when strictly necessary,

and proceeds to the order of the day.

Published in Law & Politics
Wednesday, 26 October 2011 16:15

Mobile finger scanners? Not in my backyard.

This summer it was already announced (and commented on by Privacy First) but yesterday it again popped up in the media: this fall four regional Dutch police forces will carry out a pilot experiment with mobile finger scanners to track down illegal immigrants. In official jargon this experimental project is called a ‘learning park’, according to a long-awaited response (after three months) to earlier Parliamentary questions. What will our friends at the police learn in the 'park' called the Netherlands? Privacy First sheds some light on a number of possible 'learning moments':

1) collectively intruding upon other people’s privacy and physical integrity by taking fingerprints of everyone who, in the eyes of the policeman, could perhaps be ‘illegal’,

2) this is very likely to go hand in hand with discriminatory enforcement, ethnic profiling and increasing stigmatization of certain societal groups,

3) initially the scanners will mostly be used for ‘illegal’ immigrants (undocumented migrants) but will then be used for other groups and eventually for every citizen, for instance for the collection of outstanding fines or tax debts (so-called 'function creep'),

4) this year it already appeared that the current state of biometric technology (with current error rates in passports and ID cards of at least 21%) is still in its infancy and isn’t suitable for use on a massive scale,

5) with all the consequences this entails, among which are unjustified suspicions, unjustified immigration detention placements, mutual feelings of insecurity and risks of irritation, confrontations and aggression on the streets,

6) all of this not even considering possible data leakages and hacking of the used equipment,

7) and all of this without public Privacy Impact Assessments and cost-benefit analysis of the matter in hand.

Hence, these mobile finger scanners are dangerous toys. Our advice: don’t start using them. This ‘learning park’ is nothing less than a privacy swamp.

Published in Biometrics

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

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: 

MOTION BY MEMBER OF THE SENATE FRANKEN AND OTHERS

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

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
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