In February 2011, the Dutch Senate adopted a revised, more privacy-friendly legislative proposal on the introduction of 'smart energy meters'. But does this really enhance the protection of citizens' privacy? Dr. Jaap-Henk Hoepman of the
[translated by Privacy First from the original article in Dutch]
‘‘In the legislative act, the following things have changed: smart meters are no longer compulsory and refusing a smart meter is no longer an economic crime. Monitoring energy consumption continuously is no longer allowed. This is only allowed when making an invoice, in the event of relocation or where technical management is due. When moving to a house where a smart meter is already installed, you can request to have the meter turned off ‘administratively’. The distribution network operator is obliged to accept this request. Basically an administratively disabled meter behaves like a traditional, ‘dumb’ meter. This sounds hopeful.
However, the extent to which ‘administratively turned off’ in practice truly does mean ‘turned off’ still depends on further requirements that will be imposed on smart meters. Of course there’s a big difference between a meter that never passes on information and a meter that does so every once in a while even though the information is then being ignored by the distribution network operator. Administratively turned off could also mean that the operator promises not to make a request for information to the meter. But what if someone else does this instead? And what if operators are required by law enforcement agencies to make a request for information to the meter after all? Would the meter simply respond to it? A ‘dumb’ meter would never do such a thing...
In my view a greater objection is the opt-out character of the law. A consumer is allowed to request for the smart meter to be disabled. It would have been better to make that into an opt-in rule. When a smart meter is delivered and whenever a relocation takes place the meter is automatically turned off. Consumers can then request for the smart meter to be administratively turned on.
Citizens are not in a position to choose not to use systems such as smart meters, an electronic toll system or the Electronic Health Record which have been introduced by the government. Therefore a great deal of responsibility to protect citizens against abuse lies with the government. The default state should therefore be a good protection of privacy. And opt-in should be the norm. Be smart: choose for opt-in!’’
Dutch source: Jaap-Henk Hoepman's blog, 'Opt-in, da's pas slim', http://blog.xot.nl/2011/04/11/opt-in-das-pas-slim/, 11 April 2011.
With the exception of Great-Britain, of all countries in the European Union the Netherlands is worse off in terms of privacy. This emerges from a large-scale survey by the British organisation Privacy International. In the Netherlands there is endemic surveillance in no less than 10 areas, among which are the biometric passport/ID-card, the exchange of personal data, the storage of communication data, medical and financial information, telephone and internet tapping and border controls. Furthermore, with regard to privacy, in the Netherlands there are no effective constitutional safeguards, insufficient judicial supervision and a lack of political leadership. You can read the entire survey HERE.
The findings of Privacy International confirm that a radical change of direction is needed in the Netherlands in the area of privacy: from worst practice to best practice, moving from the position of a ‘privacy third world country’ towards that of a ‘privacy leading nation’. The Netherlands has the knowledge and the means to make this step. Privacy First is eager to contribute its mite in this well-needed ‘privacy U-turn’.
Below is an extensive photo impression of the day of our Passport Trial at the Palace of Justice in The Hague. These pictures were taken by press photographer Guus Schoonewille of Fastfoto and can be used freely under the following title: "Privacy First Foundation, 29 November 2010, Trial against the new Passport Act. Photo: Guus Schoonewille". Click on the picture of your choice to see a larger version which you can download using your right mouse button.