"Judge in The Hague says country's regime for retaining telephone and internet users helps to solve crime but is too intrusive.
A judge has scrapped the Netherlands' data retention law, saying that while it helps solve crime it also breaches the privacy of telephone and Internet users.
The ruling by a judge in The Hague followed a similar decision in April by the European Union's top court that wiped out EU data collection legislation it deemed too broad and offering too few privacy safeguards.
The Dutch security and justice ministry said it was considering an appeal.
Under the Dutch law telephone companies were required to store information about all fixed and mobile phone calls for a year. Internet providers had to store information on their clients' internet use for six months.
The written judgment by Judge GP van Ham conceded that scrapping the data storage "could have far-reaching consequences for investigating and prosecuting crimes" but added that this could not justify the privacy breaches the law entailed.
The judge did not set a deadline for disposing of the data.
Privacy First, one of the organisations that took the government to court, said the ruling "will bring to an end years of massive privacy breaches" in the Netherlands.
The Dutch government said after last year's European court ruling that it would amend its law. In a written statement the security and justice ministry said it regretted the court's decision.
"Providers are no longer required to store data for investigations," the statement said. "The ministry is seriously concerned about the effect this will have on fighting crime."
Data retention has been a heated issue in light of Edward Snowden's revelations about the activities of the National Security Agency in the US and its affiliates overseas.
In Australia, a key US intelligence ally, the government is currently considering its own data retention package, which would store certain types of Australians' phone and web data for two years.
Privacy concerns have been raised and a lengthy political debate has ensued amid confusion within the government itself over how far the laws would extend or what would be retained. But the bill is now closer to passing with the support of a parliamentary committee involving both major parties.
The government in Canberra has agreed to hold a separate hearing into the issues of law enforcement agencies access to journalists' metadata, and news outlets will appear before a parliamentary hearing on 20 March."
Source: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/mar/12/data-retention-netherlands-court-strikes-down-law-as-breach-of-privacy, 12 March 2015.
"The Dutch data retention law requiring telecommunications operators and ISPs to store customer metadata for police investigations was scrapped by the District Court of the Hague on Wednesday.
The court found that the law violates fundamental European Union privacy rights. The question remains though whether the law should be inactivated indefinitely, as the case can be appealed by the Dutch state, a court spokesman said. However, pending the outcome of any possible legal procedures the law will remain inactive, he said.
The Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice declined to comment as it was still studying the verdict.
The law suspended by the court was based on the EU's Data Retention Directive, which was invalidated by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) last year, also because it violated fundamental privacy rights.
Despite that ruling though, the Dutch government decided in November last year to largely maintain its national data retention law on the grounds that it "is indispensable for the investigation and prosecution of serious criminal offenses." Only a few adjustments were made, which mainly tightened who had access to what data and under what circumstances.
Not satisfied with that approach, a broad coalition of organizations, including Privacy First, the Dutch Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Dutch Association of Journalists, the Dutch Section of the International Commission of Jurists, ISP BIT and telecom companies VOYS and SpeakUp, sued the government in January to get the law invalidated.
The court, ruling in their favor, criticized the overly broad scope of the law in its verdict.
Data retention rules were introduced after terror attacks in London and Madrid in 2004 and 2005 with the aim of fighting serious crime. However, the Dutch law also allowed law enforcement to retrieve data in the case of a bicycle theft, the court noted. And while the government promised not to use the law lightly, the fact remains that the opportunity to do so exists and there are no safeguards to effectively restrict access to information to what is strictly necessary for the fight against only serious crime, the court found.
What's more, under the scrapped law, access to data is not subject to a prior review by a court or independent administrative authority, the court said. Thus, the law violates articles 7 and 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, which cover the right to a private life and the protection of personal data.
While the inactivation of the law may have profound implications for the investigation and prosecution of criminal offenses, that does not justify the persistence of the infringement, the court said.
The verdict probably means that ISPs and telecom companies can now stop retaining data, but when or whether they will do so is unclear. BIT did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Dutch ISP XS4ALL said the company can probably stop retaining data and delete existing records but wants the legal department to make absolutely sure it can before it will do so.
The Netherlands is not the only country where a law based on the EU Data Retention Directive was invalidated. A similar law was axed by the Constitutional Court of Austria in the wake of the CJEU ruling, for example, while Germany's data retention law was ruled unconstitutional long before the CJEU ruling.
In Sweden, meanwhile, the government maintains that the national data retention law can still be applied. And in the U.K., a new data retention law was rushed through by the U.K. government in December, replacing the one that was based on the EU directive. That new law will be reviewed by the country's High Court though to determine if it violates human rights."
Source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2895356/dutch-court-scraps-telecommunications-data-retention-law.html, 11 March 2015.
Today the district court of The Hague has rendered the Dutch Data Retention Act inoperative in a break-through verdict. The judge did so at the request of the Privacy First Foundation and six other organizations. This puts an end to a massive privacy violation that lasted for years: retaining the telecommunications data of everyone in the Netherlands for criminal investigation purposes, which made every Dutch citizen a potential suspect.
Broad coalition of civil society organizations
Under the 2009 Dutch Data Retention Act, the telecommunications data (telephony and internet traffic) of everyone in the Netherlands had to be retained, for 12 months and 6 months respectively, for criminal investigation purposes. In interim injunction proceedings against the Dutch government, a broad coalition of civil society organizations demanded the Act to be rendered inoperative as it violated the right to privacy. The claimant organizations were the Privacy First Foundation, the Dutch Association of Defence Counsel (NVSA), the Dutch Association of Journalists (NVJ), the Netherlands Committee of Jurists for Human Rights (NJCM), Internet provider BIT and telecommunications providers VOYS and SpeakUp. The case was conducted by Boekx Attorneys (Amsterdam).
According to the claimant parties, the Dutch Data Retention Act constituted a violation of fundamental rights that protect privacy, communications and personal data. This was also the view of the European Court of Justice in April last year, followed by the Dutch Council of State (Raad van State), the Dutch Data Protection Authority (College Bescherming Persoonsgegevens) and the Dutch Senate (Eerste Kamer). However, former Dutch minister of Security and Justice, Ivo Opstelten, refused to withdraw the Act. Opstelten wanted to uphold the Act until a legislative change was implemented, which could have taken years. The district court in The Hague has now made short shrift of the Act by repealing it immediately.
Data retention is unlawful
On 8 April 2014, the European Court of Justice declared the EU Data Retention Directive entirely and retroactively unlawful. The Dutch Data Retention Act was almost identical to this invalid directive. According to the European Court, retaining the telecommunications data of everyone, without any well-founded suspicion, is in breach of the fundamental right to privacy. Randomly and unrestrictedly collecting 'metadata' in the context of mass surveillance is not permitted, according to the Court.
Privacy First is committed to maintaining and strengthening everyone's right to privacy, if necessary by filing lawsuits against the Dutch government. The Dutch Data Retention Act was an excellent cause for doing so, says Vincent Böhre of Privacy First: "This mass surveillance constituted a massive violation of the right to privacy of every Dutch citizen. It was unacceptable that minister Opstelten clinged to this practice after the highest European court had already clearly stated back in April that this privacy violation was not permitted. Privacy First works to promote a society in which innocent citizens are not burdened by the idea of constantly being watched. The judgment of the court in The Hague is an important step in that direction."
Privacy First expects Dutch telecommunications providers to comply with the judgment and stop retaining everyone's telecommunications data for criminal investigation purposes. In case the Dutch government decides to appeal the judgment, then Privacy First is confident about the outcome of proceedings before the Hague Court of Appeal.
"The first hearing of the appeal against the Dutch data retention legislation will be heard 18 February, announced ISP BIT, one of the organisations bringing the suit. BIT as well as a number of NGOs claim the legislation is in violation of personal privacy rights. The lawsuit was filed in December in cooperation with Privacy First, the Dutch association of defense lawyers, the Dutch journalists union, the Dutch committee of lawyers for human rights and the telecom operators BIT, Voys and SpeakUp. The Amsterdam law fim Boekx Advocaten is handling the case."
Source: http://www.telecompaper.com/news/dutch-data-retention-appeal-hearing-scheduled-for-18-feb--1059022, 12 January 2015.
"The Dutch data retention law will have its day in court on Feb. 18, when the District Court of the Hague hears a legal challenge to it filed by a broad coalition of organizations.
The law requires telecommunications and Internet companies to retain their customer's location and traffic metadata for six to 12 months, depending on the type of data, for investigatory purposes.
However, the complainants want the court to invalidate the law because it violates fundamental privacy rights, said their law firm Boekx Advocaten. The main reason the law should be scrapped, they say, is a ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) last year, which invalidated the EU's Data Retention Directive on which the Dutch law is based because it violates fundamental privacy rights.
After evaluating that ruling, though, the Dutch government decided in November largely to maintain the national data retention law on the grounds that it "is indispensable for the investigation and prosecution of serious criminal offenses." Only a few adjustments to the law were deemed necessary, mainly tightening who has access to the data and under which circumstances.
By maintaining the law, the government also ignored the advice given by the Council of State, a constitutional advisory body that concluded that the Dutch data retention law should be withdrawn because it violates fundamental privacy laws.
The challenge, filed by civil rights organization Privacy First, the Dutch Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Dutch Association of Journalists, the Dutch Section of the International Commission of Jurists, ISP BIT and telecom companies VOYS and SpeakUp, aims to get the law invalidated as soon as possible.
Data retention laws in other EU countries have been ruled unconstitutional. The Constitutional Court of Austria for instance axed the local data retention law in the wake of the CJEU ruling, and in Germany the local data retention law was already ruled unconstitutional in 2010, long before the CJEU ruling.
In Sweden though things are much the same as in the Netherlands. There, the government maintains that the Swedish national legislation can still be applied, causing trouble for Swedish ISP Bahnhof, which had stopped retaining and deleted data after being given permission by the Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) to do so in wake of the CJEU ruling.
However, Bahnhof was told to start retaining data again later last year. To protect its customers, the ISP has set up a free VPN (virtual private network) service to hide their communication metadata from the police. It also asked to the European Commission to intervene and vowed to fight the law in court.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament's Legal Service also reached a conclusion about the CJEU ruling. It means that EU countries no longer have any obligation but rather an option to keep retaining data, it said in its analysis of the implications of the judgement that was leaked by digital rights group Access Now last week.
As a result of the CJEU ruling, countries run an even higher risk than before of having their national legislation annulled by national courts in a similar way to what has happened in some EU countries, the Legal Service said. (...)"
Source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2867792/dutch-government-sued-over-data-retention-law.html, 12 January 2015.
Privacy constitutes the basis of our democratic constitutional State. However, of all human rights in the Netherlands, the right to privacy finds itself under the most pressure. This observation was the reason for Privacy First to be founded in March 2009. Ever since, retaining and reinforcing everyone's right to privacy is what the Privacy First Foundation has been striving for on a daily basis. Partly due to the efforts of Privacy First, in recent years large scale privacy violations have either been brought to a halt or have been prevented, privacy awareness in Dutch society has increased and ever more privacy friendly initiatives see the light of day. Think of the discontinuation of the central storage of fingerprints under the Dutch Passport Act, the introduction of Dutch ID cards without fingerprints, compulsory Privacy Impact Assessments and 'privacy by design' as part of new Dutch legislation. In 2013 this positive turn-around continued. However, there have been less positive developments as well. We are keen to elucidate this for you in our annual report 2013.
A broad coalition of organizations and companies is starting interim injunction proceedings against the Dutch government. The Privacy First Foundation, internet provider BIT, the Dutch Association of Journalists and the Dutch Association of Defence Counsel among others are demanding the abolition of the Dutch Telecommunications Data Retention Act. The Dutch Council of State and the European Court of Justice have already ruled that the Act is in violation of fundamental rights that protect private life, communications and personal data. However, the Dutch government refuses to render the Telecommunications Data Retention Act inoperative.
On 8 April 2014 the European Court of Justice declared the European Data Retention Directive (2006/24/EC) invalid with retroactive effect. According to the Court, retaining communications data of everyone without any concrete suspicion is in violation of the fundamental right to privacy. Objective criteria should be applied to determine the necessity of collection and retention of data and there should be prior control from an independent body or judge. Randomly and unrestrictedly collecting metadata (traffic data) in the context of 'mass surveillance' is not permitted, according to the Court.
In the Netherlands, regulations in this area are enshrined in the Dutch Telecommunications Data Retention Act, which largely mirrors the European Data Retention Directive. The Act provides that telecommunications companies and internet providers have to retain various data regarding internet and telephone usage for at least six and at most twelve months in order for judicial authorities to be able to use those data for criminal investigation purposes. Recently the Dutch Council of State ('Raad van State') judged that the Act does not comply with fundamental rights that protect private life, communications and personal data. However, the Dutch government does not heed the advice of the Council of State and refuses to repeal the Act. Compliance with the Act will be maintained by the government.
Vincent Böhre of Privacy First: "Mass surveillance constitutes a massive violation of citizens' privacy rights. It is unacceptable that the Dutch government clings to this practice after the highest European judge has already clearly stated back in April that this privacy violation is not permitted."
Thomas Bruning, Secretary of the Dutch Association of Journalists: "Telecommunications companies and internet providers are now obliged to retain a vast amount of communications data of all citizens. This includes journalists. Companies have to disclose these data at the request of the government. There is no guarantee whatsoever for the journalistic right of non-disclosure."
"The Dutch regulations are in breach of the applicable European fundamental rights", states Fulco Blokhuis, partner at Boekx Attorneys, who has meanwhile drafted a subpoena. "This situation is as disconcerting as it is undesirable. Maintaining this Act is unlawful, both towards citizens as well as companies who are forced to stay in possession of traffic data."
Alex Bik of internet provider BIT: "When the Dutch government introduced the Act, it hid behind the argument that the introduction was simply imposed upon by Europe, but since the European Data Retention Directive has been repealed with retroactive effect, this argument all of a sudden is no longer deemed valid by the government. That is not right."
Otto Volgenant of Boekx Attorneys: "As the Dutch Minister of Security and Justice, Ivo Opstelten, is unwilling to abolish the Telecommunications Data Retention Act, we will request the court to either render the Act inoperative or to prohibit its application any longer. We will shortly be issuing interim injunction proceedings."
Update 12 January 2015: the interim injunction proceedings against the Dutch government pertaining to the retention of telecommunications data will take place before the district court of The Hague in a public hearing on Wednesday 18 February 2015 at 11:00 hours. Meanwhile, the renowned Netherlands Committee of Jurists for Human Rights (NJCM) has joined the coalition of claimant organizations. Click HERE (pdf, in Dutch) for the subpoena, click HERE for a press release from Boekx Attorneys (in Dutch) and HERE for an article (in Dutch) which appeared on the website of Dutch newspaper Telegraaf this morning.
Update 30 January 2015: yesterday a hearing (roundtable) about the Dutch Data Retention Act took place in the Dutch House of Representatives. Click HERE for a schedule of the hearing (pdf) and HERE (pdf, in Dutch) for the talking points that Privacy First sent to the House of Representatives prior to the hearing (pdf). The lack of necessity and proportionality of the current Data Retention Act were the main topics that were discussed by Privacy First during the roundtable. Other aspects that were raised by Privacy First related to the chilling effect in society as well as the potential for function creep that the Act brings about.
Update 13 February 2015: today, on behalf of the State, the Dutch State Attorney submitted a Statement of Defence; click HERE (pdf in Dutch, 9 MB). The admissibility of the claimant organizations will not be challenged by the Dutch government, the State Attorney told our own attorneys by telephone. Therefore the proceedings will immediately focus on the merits of the case, rather than on procedural requirements. This is a breakthrough development: in similar cases the admissibility of the claimant parties was almost always contested by the State. A crucial lawsuit concerning such admissibility (our Passport Trial against the storage of fingerprints) is currently being conducted by Privacy First against the Dutch government before the Supreme Court of the Netherlands. Privacy First is of the opinion that the recognition of admissibility by the State Attorney in the interim injunction proceedings against the Telecommunications Data Retention Act puts Privacy First in a stronger position for this and future lawsuits that revolve around the right to privacy. Moreover, in times when access to justice of individual citizens in the Netherlands is increasingly under financial pressure, the admissibility of civil society organizations such as Privacy First forms an important safeguard for a well functioning Dutch democracy under the rule of law.
Update 18 February 2015: in front of a full courtroom (many civil servants, citizens, students and journalists were in attendance), today Privacy First et al. crossed swords with the State; click HERE for the plea of our attorneys (pdf in Dutch) and HERE for the pleadings of the State Attorney (pdf, in Dutch). The judge listened carefully but didn't ask any questions. As yet, Wednesday 11 March 2015 has been determined as the date of the judgment.
Update 11 March 2015: in a break-through verdict today, the district court of The Hague has rendered the Dutch Data Retention Act inoperative; click HERE.
"Holland sammelt unbändig Daten. Neue digitale Produkte dienen der totalen Überwachung. Und sind eine große Gefahr für die Gesellschaft.
Hinter den Dünen, ein paar hundert Meter vom Strand entfernt, liegt in Noordwijk der futuristische Bau von Decos. Das niederländische Software-Unternehmen hat sich eine neue Zentrale geleistet – einem eingeschlagenen Meteoriten ist sie nachempfunden, es könnte auch ein Raumschiff sein. Hier setzen IT-Spezialisten die digitale Zukunft durch: den völlig papierlosen Betrieb. Mitarbeiter kommunizieren ausschließlich elektronisch, und wer dem Unternehmen einen Brief schreibt, bekommt ihn zurück mit der Aufforderung, ihn nochmals zu senden, aber bitte als E-Mail.
Auch seinen Kunden bietet Decos Digitalisierung pur: Das Unternehmen liefert ihnen Software, um alle Dokumente elektronisch zu speichern – aber auch Produkte zur totalen Überwachung von Mitarbeitern. Sein „Cartracker" verfolgt jede Dienstreise, alle fünf Sekunden wird das Fahrzeug frisch verortet. „Hiermit haben Sie immer eine aktuelle Übersicht, wo sich Ihre Autos und Mitarbeiter befinden", wirbt Decos. Mehr noch: Der Fahrstil wird ständig überwacht und sogar benotet: „Aufgrund der Höchstgeschwindigkeit, des Bremsverhaltens und der Beschleunigung berechnet ,Decos Cartracker' eine individuelle Zensur für das Fahrverhalten jedes Fahrers."
Digitalisierung wird zur Norm
Nun mag es bei Geldtransportern noch sinnig sein, ihnen aus Sicherheitsgründen aus der Ferne zu folgen. In allen anderen Fällen gilt: Wohl dem, der einen weniger progressiven Arbeitgeber hat – einen, der vertraut, statt nonstop zu überwachen. Aber die Digitalisierung nimmt zu, sie wird zur Norm – und das nicht nur im Beruf, auch im öffentlichen Raum. Und die Niederlande sind hier in mancherlei Hinsicht schon weiter fortgeschritten als Deutschland.
Im Juli schaffte das Land endgültig die Fahrkarte aus Papier im öffentlichen Verkehr ab – für die zuvor schon schrittweise eingeführte „ÖV-Chipkarte", die den Preis in der Regel je Kilometer berechnet. Für den Kunden bedeutet sie außer 7,50 Euro Anschaffungskosten vor allem Umstände: für das Aufladen, für das Ein- und Auschecken bei jeder Fahrt. Wer das versäumt oder an einen kaputten Kartenleser gerät, ist schnell ein Sümmchen los; man muss dann auf Kulanz hoffen und per Online-Antrag versuchen, es erstattet zu bekommen.
Anonymität hat ihren Preis
Was aber noch schwerer wiegt: Die Chipkarte speichert so die Fahrstrecke – und da die Standardversion alle wesentlichen Nutzerdaten enthält (inklusive Kontonummer), kann sie das Reiseverhalten des Bürgers erfassen. Wer anonym mit einem Einmal-Ticket fahren will, muss Aufschlag zahlen – nicht viel, einen Euro momentan, aber immerhin; und vielleicht ist das ja auch nur der Anfang. Viel gravierender noch: Wer eine Studenten- oder Rentnerkarte braucht, muss zwingend die personengebundene Version mit den Daten wählen. Natürlich versichern die Betreiber, alles vertraulich zu behandeln. Aber wer sich darauf verlässt, ist naiv. Wo immer auf der Welt digital gespeichert wird: Die Vorfälle sind Legion, in denen Patienten-, Sozial- oder andere Daten missbraucht wurden – oder massenweise verfügbar, sei es versehentlich, sei es durch Hacker.
Natürlich gibt es in Deutschland den ähnlichen Fall: wenn jemand mit seiner Bahncard Punkte sammelt. Aber das macht er dann freiwillig. Und es ist wichtig aufzupassen, dass die öffentlichen Verkehrsträger hierzulande nicht dem Beispiel aus dem Ausland folgen. Generell ist Obacht schon geboten, wann immer die Preisgabe von Daten belohnt wird – wie bei dem Vorstoß eines deutschen Autoversicherers, Rabatt zu gewähren, wenn der Autohalter einen digitalen Fahrtenschreiber (Blackbox) installiert. Denn das läuft schnell darauf hinaus, dass er umgekehrt für das Recht auf Anonymität einen Malus bekommt.
Erstaunlich ist, dass ein Land wie die Niederlande so unbändig Daten sammelt – sieht es sich doch gerne als „gidsland": als internationales Vorbild, wenn es um Politik, Verwaltung, gesellschaftliche Werte und Normen geht. „Von allen Menschenrechten steht das Recht auf Privatsphäre in den Niederlanden am meisten unter Druck", befindet die Stiftung Privacy First.
Mal führen die Behörden Sicherheit als Argument für die Digitalisierung an, mal Effizienz. Nach Amsterdam führt jetzt auch Rotterdam stadtweit das „Kennzeichenparken" ein: Wer das Auto abstellt, muss am Automaten die Buchstaben und Ziffern des Nummernschilds eingeben. Mit Bargeld darf er auch nicht mehr zahlen, nur mit Karte oder per Mobiltelefon – auch dies ein nationaler Trend. Wieder eine digitale Spur hinterlassen, wieder ein Stück Anonymität dahin. (...) [A]ls Nächstes eine Pflicht für Smart Meters in Wohnungen: Ablesegeräte, die viel mehr erfassen können als nur den Energieverbrauch in den Wohnungen. Die Industrie lobbyiere schon kräftig dafür. Nicht zu reden von den zahllosen Überwachungskameras in Städten, der massenweisen Kennzeichenerfassung auf Autobahnen und Polizeidrohnen mit Kamera. Die Bedenken der Datenschützer werden gerne abgetan: Wer nichts zu verbergen hat, muss doch nichts befürchten? Aber das ist die falsche Haltung, sie kehrt ein grundlegendes Recht um: das Recht, sich unbewacht zu bewegen."
Source: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/wirtschaft/wirtschaftspolitik/digitalisierung-big-brother-in-holland-13092653.html, 12 August 2014.
"Recently, the Court of Appeal of The Hague held that the storage of Dutch citizens' personal data in a central register is an unjustified violation of the right to privacy.
In light of, amongst other things, the implementation of the European regulation on standards for security features and biometrics in passports and travel documents, and to comply with this regulation, the Dutch Passport Act was amended in 2009. This new Passport Act states that future passports would have to contain a chip with a digital facial image and two fingerprints of each applicant. The Dutch government therefore planned to create a central register to hold the facial image files and four fingerprints of each applicant (two of which are included in the passport for identity verification). This new register would also serve other purposes: it would help passport fraud control, and it would allow applicants to renew their passport in any municipality in the Netherlands. The national government acknowledged that the request and saving of these personal data would form a violation of the right to privacy of Dutch citizens, but the government stated that the data storage was proportionate and justified, considering the intended purposes.
The interest group Privacy First disagreed with the government. This group, which seeks to publicly promote the enhancement and preservation of the right to privacy, believed that the creation of this central register violates this fundamental right enshrined in several international laws and regulations. The group launched legal proceedings against the Dutch government. The district court of The Hague ruled that Privacy First did not have a cause of action. Privacy First then appealed against this verdict.
Remarkably, the government meanwhile reviewed their amendments to the new Passport Act. The government concluded that the storage of these personal data in a central register did not achieve its purpose, namely passport fraud control via one's identity verification. Therefore, the Act's provisions that related to the storage of personal data in a central register would be suspended. Furthermore, the number of fingerprints to be taken for the filing would be reduced from four to two in accordance with European regulation.
On appeal, the Court of Appeal ruled that since Privacy First and the government now share the same views about the central register, Privacy First would have lost its standing in their cause of actions, so it dismissed the interest group's claims. However, the Court of Appeal found that the district court had erred when it held that Privacy First did not have a cause of action at the time. Since Privacy First is an interest group advocating the protection of the general interest of Dutch nationals' right to privacy, it should have been able to bring proceedings before the civil court according to Article 3:305 of the Dutch Civil Code (Burgerlijk Wetboek). This would only have been different if the interest group had represented the combined interest of individuals. The Court of Appeal further ruled that Privacy First incurred a financial risk.
The Court of Appeal also ruled that in view of all the circumstances of the case at first instance, the district court should have ruled in favour of Privacy First concerning their arguments against the setting up of a central register. This central register's storage of Dutch citizens' personal data is an unjustified violation of one's right to privacy enshrined in Article 8 ECHR because it did not fulfill its purpose. The Court of Appeal understands that this was a violation from the start, but this had only become evident after the first ruling."
Source: http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=27bf8f03-ada9-47d4-ac7f-4e4aece29cd3, 15 July 2014.
Today the district court of The Hague ruled in the case Citizens v. [Dutch Minister of Home Affairs] Plasterk ("Burgers tegen Plasterk"). In this lawsuit a coalition of citizens and organizations (including Privacy First) demands the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) and the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) to put an end to the receipt and use (''laundering'') of illegally collected foreign intelligence on Dutch citizens, for example through the infamous PRISM program of the American NSA. Unfortunately the court has rejected all of the claims. Below are some first observations by Privacy First.
A positive aspect of the judgment is that the court deems all plaintiffs (citizens and organizations) admissible. This is a very welcome development for Privacy First with regard to our current Passport Trial before the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, wherein such admissibility will be crucial. However, this bright spot is overshadowed by the way the district court of The Hague has dealt with the merits of the case.
First of all, the court failed to carry out a fact-finding study: in fact no witnesses and experts were heard at all, even though this was offered to the court on forehand and Dutch law offers sufficient opportunity for this.
Furthermore, it is striking that the court deems less strict procedural safeguards necessary when it comes to the exchange of massive amounts of raw data in bulk. For the exchange of information on such a large scale, stricter – not less strict – procedural safeguards are necessary, as most of these data relate to innocent citizens.
In addition, the court wrongfully makes a distinction between metadata (traffic data) and the content of communications, while both types of data overlap and require the same high level of judicial protection.
The court is also wide off the mark by judging that the legal requirement of foreseeability (including privacy guarantees) of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) would be less applicable to the international exchange of data between secret services. As yet, in the Netherlands the legal basis of such exchange of data is formed by a relatively obscure legal provision: Article 59 of the Dutch Intelligence and Security Services Act (Wiv). This article is far from fulfilling the modern requirements that article 8 ECHR imposes on such provisions. Therefore, the current practice of exchange between the AIVD/MIVD and foreign secret services in essence takes place within a legal vacuum, a legal black hole.
In the view of Privacy First, the current judgment of the Hague court comes down to the ''legal laundering'' of this practice. Privacy First expects that higher courts will deem this situation to be a violation of Article 8 ECHR and is looking forward to the appeal before the Hague Court of Appeals with confidence.