Privacy First is considering taking legal steps.

Without any regard to all the privacy objections, this week the European Parliament has voted in favor of mandatory introduction of the eCall system in new cars. This system forms a direct threat to the privacy of every motorist. In case the European Council (i.e. a majority of EU Member States) approves the decision of the European Parliament, the eCall device will become mandatory in every car in Europe as of October 2015. Privacy First demands that eCall will become voluntary instead of mandatory and to this end is prepared to start a lawsuit if necessary.

In case of a road accident eCall automatically alerts the emergency services by calling 112. However, the eCall alarm system also leaves behind a trail of location data without the motorist having given his prior consent to this. It's an in-vehicle system that doesn't have an on/off button but does continuously leave behind traces (metadata) to the surrounding GSM networks. This constitutes a flagrant breach of the right to privacy and anonymity in public space. Moreover, the system could be used for purposes other than road safety only by organizations such as the police, insurance companies, tax authorities, intelligence services and possibly even criminals. There has hardly been any public debate about the possible introduction of eCall. Therefore the mandatory introduction is not only unlawful but also undemocratic. A few years ago the introduction of the electronic toll system with the accompanying 'spying device' was rejected by the Dutch in mass numbers. Now it seems they will be put up with a spying device in their cars via a European back door after all. This is unworthy of a democratic constitutional State such as the Netherlands.

The Privacy First Foundation intervenes as soon as the right to privacy is about to be violated on a massive scale. In case the eCall system will be mandatorily introduced in the Netherlands, Privacy First will start a lawsuit to turn this decision around. If needed, Privacy First is prepared to litigate all the way up to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and is confident about the outcome of any legal steps it may take.

Published in Law & Politics

"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.

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

On Thursday morning 23 August 2012, the Dutch Royal Military and Border Police (Koninklijke Nederlandse Marechaussee, KMAR) presented to the international press the by now notorious Dutch camera system called @migo-Boras. That same afternoon the Privacy First Foundation was visited in Amsterdam by a camera crew of international news agency Associated Press (AP). For copyright reasons unfortunately we cannot publish the video material from AP. Among other things, Vincent Böhre (Privacy First) declared the following to AP:

‘‘Our main concerns are about privacy, because this system is based on profiling and total surveillance of everybody driving on the highway. Our second objection is of course the Schengen Agreement: this system really comes down to border control, even though they don’t want to call it that way. But if you look at the capabilities of the system and the intentions behind it, it’s pretty clear that it comes down to border control, and that's also what most lawyers say.’’

The news report that was then distributed across the world by AP is set out below:

‘‘Amid privacy concerns, Dutch immigration minister shows off new border cameras targeting crime’

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch immigration minister has shown off the government’s new system of cameras posted at border crossings with Germany and Belgium that he says will help clamp down on crimes like drug and people smuggling and illegal immigration.

However the new surveillance system has raised concerns among privacy activists.

The European Commission says that, based on information provided by Dutch authorities, the surveillance does not appear to breach the Schengen agreement governing freedom of movement within the 27-nation bloc and does not amount to a reintroduction of border controls.

However, the Commission says it will monitor the use of the cameras, which are posted at 15 highway border crossings. Immigration Minister Gerd Leers said Thursday the cameras are intended to help police target suspicious vehicles.’’
(Example: Montreal Gazette, via AP Worldstream)

Meanwhile, the Privacy First Foundation still considers taking legal action against @migo-Boras. It does so because 1) the system still has no specific legal basis, 2) the system is not necessary because it is solely 'supportive' to the task of the KMAR called Mobiel Toezicht Veiligheid (Mobile Security Monitoring) which is to check up on people from other Schengen countries travelling into the Netherlands, 3) the system is disproportionate because it is meant to track down a few individuals at the cost of the privacy and freedom to travel of everyone, 4) people are stopped and searched by the KMAR on the basis of the unlawful criterion of 'being interesting' instead of the lawful criterion of being under the 'reasonable suspicion of a criminal act', 5) the effectiveness of the system has thus far not been proved, 6) the system considers everyone at border crossings a potential suspect, 7) in practice, some elements of the system have a discriminatory effect, 8) the system seems increasingly set to be extended with four weeks of storage of everyone's travel movements through Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), 9) within the system design there is 'function creep (derogation from the original purpose) by design' instead of 'privacy by design' and 10) despite the judgement of the European Commission things basically come down to mass electronic border controls which are prohibited under the Schengen Agreement.

See also the following items (in Dutch, on privacyfirst.nl):

Big Brother-systeem zet privacy automobilist aan kant (Telegraaf.nl, 10 September 2012)

Interview met Privacy First over camerasysteem @migo-Boras (BNR Nieuwsradio, 1 August 2012)

Met @migo-Boras maak je geen vrienden (Privacy First, 5 January 2012)

Interview met Privacy First over nieuw grenscontrolesysteem @migo-boras (NOS Radio 1, 30 November 2011)

Interview met Privacy First over nieuw grenscontrolesysteem @migo-Boras (ZDF Journaal, 25 November 2011)

Click HERE for more items about @migo-Boras.

Published in CCTV

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
Friday, 22 July 2011 19:03

Looptroop - Fort Europa

"After the first and the second world wars
You'd think us Europeans couldn't take it no more
But we built up and tore down the Berlin wall
Only to build up a new and improved around our crumblin' Fort (Europa)
This one was a bit tricky, not visible to the naked eye"

Published in Music

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

A broad international alliance of NGOs demands that there will be a European investigation into biometric data storage. Governments increasingly lay claim to people's biometric data (such as fingerprints), which are then stored on radio-frequency identification (RFID)-chips in passports and ID-cards. Some countries, such as the Netherlands, France and Lithuania go even further and store this information in databases which can be used for criminal investigation and prosecution.

The alliance of more than 60 organisations (including Privacy First) has urgently requested the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland, to request the countries concerned for an explanation about whether or not their legislation on these matters complies with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as speedily as possible. The alliance is of the opinion that a thorough investigation is to be conducted on whether the guarantees and criteria of human rights with respect to the necessity, proportionality, subsidiarity and security guarantees that the ECHR demands for the use of biometrics, are in actual fact being adhered to. This is very much put in doubt by a recent report of the Council of Europe.

It is actually worth pointing out that the idea for the current European enrolment and storage of biometric data has partly come into existence in the Council of Europe itself, that is to say, at the behest of a few working groups that devoted themselves to combating terrorism around 2004. One of these working groups was the Group of Specialists on Identity and Terrorism (CJ-S-IT) which operated under Dutch chairmanship. In April 2004, this working group made the following recommendation:

 "The creation or development of systems which allow identity checks with reference
to civil status records and  registers and population registers to be carried out rapidly
(in particular by means of a centralised system) and in a reliable manner. (…)

Give consideration to and promote research and ongoing cooperation between police
scientists and institutions (…) in order to make greater use of scientific identification
of individuals, especially through the use of biometrics and DNA analysis,
most notably in their use in identity documentation.
" (Source, pp. 17-18. Other
documentation from 2003 to the present day can be found online HERE.)

Meanwhile, it is up to that very Council of Europe to map European national laws that since that time have lost their balance in this area. Where national laws do not respect human rights, the Member States in question are to be called to order. Privacy First looks forward with confidence to the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe carrying out these duties.
 

Logo of the alliance

Published in Biometrics
Wednesday, 20 October 2010 14:51

Building the Big Brother networks

The meters, grids and networks for a Big Brother society are not developed or placed by one organisation.

It is the economic impetus that inadvertently builds all the ingredients needed for a centrally controlled electronic society.

Here is an example of the way the thought processes run. When found, more will be added.

It is good practice to know the way the winds blow and heed them.

As soon as someone says you should give up your right to self-determination ‘‘for your own good’’, all alarm bells should set off.

‘‘We are here for your own good’’, ‘‘we work for your security’’ and all that jazz, and then they immediately entirely wipe out YOUR privacy. Now that’s the primary distinguishing mark of Big Brother.

Within the European Union there’s a research program called the 7th Framework Programme (FP7) which receives € 51 billion of funding.

It’s a beautiful research program of which pro-privacy programs such as PrimeLife are a part.

However, the EU is just as well working on Big Brother-like grids such as INDECT, a surveillance system for all online traffic. Now even the European Parliament has noted that something is going on.

In November 2010 it was found out, through insufficiently censored documents that the Dutch Ministry of the Interior had released, that apart from telephone data Dutch judicial authorities now also want to cluster and examine all bank details of citizens, on the same principle that was already used for telephone data tapping. Click HERE for more information about this.    

The essence of the objections against Big Brother-like practices is that citizens are forced to completely adapt to certain standards that are being imposed on them by strangers – who don’t impose those standards on themselves! These standards are then evaluated on the basis of vague criteria in order for everyone to no longer be able to be him or herself. Instead, everyone has to fit into a mould determined by the authorities. Take, for example, Mao’s reign of terror with his Little Red Book, the Cultural Revolution and the Mao uniform. Or think of the film Das Leben der Anderen. In that way rulers are instantly able to see who’s trying to escape their rulership. There are other people who outline this in more politically correct terms. See this article in The Telegraph of 19 September 2009: ‘‘EU funding ‘Orwellian’ artificial intelligence plan to monitor public for "abnormal behaviour’’. Download a pdf-version of the article pdfhere.
Trilliant’s area networks from houses to energy producer, download the pdfWhite Paper here. Trilliant is a big player in the smart grid business in the USA.

Published in Profiling
Page 4 of 4

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