With great concern, Privacy First has taken note of the intention of the Dutch government to employ special apps in the fight against the coronavirus. In Privacy First’s view, the use of such apps is a dangerous development because it could lead to stigmatisation and numerous unfounded suspicions, and may also cause unnecessary unrest and panic. Even when ‘anonymized’, the data from these apps can still be traced back to individuals through data fusion. In case this technology will be introduced on a large scale, it will result in a surveillance society in which everyone is being continuously monitored – something people will be acutely aware of and would lead to an imminent societal chilling effect. Furthermore, there is a substantial risk that the collected data will be used and misued for multiple (illegitimate) purposes by companies and public authorities. Moreover, if these data fall into the hands of criminal organizations, they will be a gold mine for criminal activities. For Privacy First, these risks of Corona apps do not outweigh their presumed benefits.

The right to anonymity in public space is a fundamental right, one that is crucial for the functioning of our democratic constitutional State. Any democratic decision to nullify this right is simply unacceptable. If indeed the deployment of ‘Corona apps’ will be widespread, then at least their use should be strictly anonymous and voluntary. That is to say, they should be used only for a legitimate, specific purpose, following individual, prior consent without any form of outside pressure and on the premise that all the necessary information is provided. In this respect, privacy by design (embedding privacy protection in technology) must be a guiding principle. For Privacy First, these are stringent and non-negotiable prerequisites. In case these conditions are not met, Privacy First will not hesitate to bring proceedings before a court.

Published in Law & Politics

In the context of the National Privacy Conference organized by Privacy First and the Dutch Platform for the Information Society (ECP), today the Dutch Privacy Awards have been handed out. These Awards offer a podium to organizations that consider privacy as an opportunity to positively distinguish themselves and want privacy-friendly entrepreneurship and innovation to become a benchmark. The winners of the 2020 Dutch Privacy Awards are Publicroam, NUTS and Candle.

Winner: Publicroam

Safe and easy access to WiFi everywhere for guest users

Most people in libraries, hotels, coffee bars and other public places log onto the local WiFi network in order to save on mobile data and to not rely on mobile networks which indoors may not be available everywhere. Often, WiFi networks operate on the basis of a single, local password, indicated on tables and screens. This makes the digital activities of users vulnerable in more ways than one, with all the ensuing nasty consequences. On top of that, users may not be informed about what the internet provider does with their personal data. It is said that the trade in personal data is by now more profitable than the trade in oil.

These risks were first identified by educational institutions and later by public authorities. This led to the creation of international roaming services like Eduroam and Govroam. But why aren’t such services available everywhere and to everyone? Publicroam set out to change just that and is being welcomed in more and more places. And rightfully so, according to the Privacy Awards expert panel. Several large municipalities and organizations (all libraries in the Netherlands among them) are already connected to Publicroam, or will be soon. In and of itself this facility is not a completely new solution, but the expert panel is particularly impressed by the fact that it can offer great advantages to literally everyone in the country – and possibly beyond – and can therefore have a huge impact on what we’re used to: one account which allows all users to go online automatically and securely, with serious respect for privacy ensured.

It’s possible after all: sound business initiatives that respect privacy; Publicroam is proof of this.

Winner: NUTS

Decentral infrastructure for privacy-friendly communication in healthcare

The NUTS Foundation is an initiative which aims to offer a privacy-friendly solution to identity management and sharing personal data in healthcare environments. It entails that individuals keep control over which healthcare data may be shared between healthcare providers. The NUTS Foundation has laid down its principles in a manifesto which all participants should ascribe to and which states that all software that’s being developed should meet the demands of open source. The result that the NUTS Foundation is striving for is a decentral system which keeps control over personal health information in the hands of the people involved.

The services offered by the decentral network are based on the principles of privacy by design. Identity management solutions contribute to irrefutably establishing the identity of individuals concerned. The decentral approach is in line with the digital healthcare architecture which is currently in the making and is also partly being introduced already. In this way, healthcare information components can use the decentral facilities that are being realized through NUTS.

In the eyes of the expert panel, the NUTS Foundation is a strong example of an initiative which not only looks at privacy issues in a comprehensive way but creates concrete solutions to these issues as well. The open source community that the NUTS Foundation is bringing to fruition, prevents vendor-lock-in in crucial areas of the digital healthcare infrastructure. Emerging digital Personal Healthcare Areas can equally make use of the decentral administrative provisions which NUTS is working towards. The rationale behind NUTS – creating a utility for a crucial part of the digital healthcare architecture – particularly appeals to the expert panel. Expanding the foundation, which currently by and large relies on a single company, will further increase the support for this initiative.

In order to give the NUTS Foundation the opportunity to further realize its ideals and to propagate these more widely, the expert panel has decided to confer this year’s Dutch Privacy Award for business solutions to the NUTS Foundation.

Winner: Candle

Privacy-friendly smart home solution

Candle is a reaction to a risk analysis (privacy by design) to Internet of Things products which unnecessarily connect to a cloud server. It’s a project which concentrates on developing alternative smart systems in and around the home, based on the principle that connection to the internet is unnecessary. Candle started off as a project organization run by students from universities and colleges of higher education as well as by artists’ collectives who aimed at developing practical hardware solutions combined with open source software. Various domestic appliances such as central heating, cameras, CO2 sensors and other applications can easily be connected with one another. A switch is used to make contact with an external network. Users make a deliberate choice when they import and export emails and other data.

Candle shows that it’s very well feasible to create a Smart solution without Big Tech companies and their data driven models. Meanwhile, there are various concept solutions which companies can actually put into practice. In its core, Candle is privacy by design and it opens people’s eyes to alternative smart systems.

"The market for ethical technology will grow in much the same way as the market for biological food has grown enormously. But how do we boost this market? That’s the challenge. The GDPR has ploughed the earth. Now it’s time to sow and entrust this concept to consumers", comments Candle.

Nominations

There are four categories in which applicants are awarded:

1. the category of Consumer solutions (business-to-consumer)

2. the category of Business solutions (within a company or business-to-business)

3. the category of Public services (public authority-to-citizen)

4. The incentive prize for a ground breaking technology or person.

From the various entries, the independent expert panel chose the following nominees per category:

Consumer solutions: Business solutions: Public services:
Publicroam NUTS (no entries)
Candle Rabobank/Deloitte  
Skotty    

During the National Privacy Conference the nominees presented their projects to the audience in Award pitches. Thereafter, the Awards were handed out. Click HERE for the entire expert panel report (pdf), which includes participation criteria and explanatory notes on all the nominees and winners.

National Privacy Conference

The National Privacy Conference is a ECP|Platform for the Information Society and Privacy First initiative. Once a year, the conference brings together Dutch industry, public authorities, the academic community and civil society with the aim to build a privacy-friendly information society. The mission of both the National Privacy Conference and Privacy First is to turn the Netherlands into a guiding nation in the field of privacy. To this end, privacy by design is key.

These were the speakers during the 2020 National Privacy Conference in successive order:

- Monique Verdier (vice chairman of Dutch Data Protection Authority)
- Richard van Hooijdonk (trendwatcher/futurist) and Bas Filippini (founder and chairman of Privacy First)
- Tom Vreeburg (IT-auditor)
- Coen Steenhuisen (privacy advisor at Privacy Company)
- Peter Fleischer (global privacy counsel at Google)
- Sander Klous (professor in Big Data Eco Systems, University of Amsterdam)
- Kees Verhoeven (Member of the Dutch House of Representatives for D66).

Expert panel of the Dutch Privacy Awards

The independent expert award panel consists of privacy experts from different fields:

• Bas Filippini, founder and chairman of Privacy First
• Paul Korremans, partner at Comfort Information Architects and Privacy First board member
• Marie-José Bonthuis, owner of IT’s Privacy
• Esther Janssen, attorney at Brandeis Attorneys specialized in information law and fundamental rights
• Marc van Lieshout, managing director at iHub, Radboud University Nijmegen
• Melanie Rieback, CEO and co-founder of Radically Open Security
• Nico Mookhoek, privacy lawyer and owner of NMLA
• Wilmar Hendriks, founder of Control Privacy and member of the Privacy First advisory board
• Alex Commandeur, senior advisor at BMC Advies.

In order to make sure that the award process is run objectively, the panel members may not judge on any entry of his or her own organization.

Privacy First organizes the Dutch Privacy Awards with the support of the Democracy & Media Foundation and in collaboration with ECP. Would you like to become a partner of the Dutch Privacy Awards? Then please contact Privacy First!

 

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Published in Actions

Today, the district court of The Hague ruled on the use of the algorithm-based system SyRI (System Risk Indication) by the Dutch government. The judges decided that the government, in trying to detect social services fraud, has to stop profiling citizens on the basis of large scale data analysis. As a result, people in the Netherlands are no longer 'suspected from the very start’ ("bij voorbaat verdacht").

The case against the Dutch government was brought by a coalition of NGOs, consisting of the Dutch Platform for the Protection of Civil Rights (Platform Bescherming Burgerrechten), the Netherlands Committee of Jurists for Human Rights (Nederlands Juristen Comité voor de Mensenrechten, NJCM), Privacy First, the KDVP Foundation (privacy in mental healthcare), Dutch trade union FNV, the National Clients Council (LCR) and authors Tommy Wieringa and Maxim Februari.

The court concludes that SyRI is in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. SyRI impinges disproportionately on the private life of citizens. This concerns not only those that SyRI has flagged as an 'increased risk', but everyone whose data are analysed by the system. According to the court, SyRI is non-transparent and therefore cannot be scrutinized. Citizens can neither anticipate the intrusion into their private life, nor can they guard themselves against it.

Moreover, the court draws attention to the actual risk of discrimination and stigmatization on the grounds of socio-economic status and possibly migration background, of citizens in disadvantaged urban areas where SyRI is being deployed. There is a risk – which cannot be examined – that SyRI operates on the basis of prejudices. The attorneys of the claimant parties, Mr. Ekker and Mr. Linders, had this to say: "The court confirms that the large scale linking of personal data is in violation of EU law, Dutch law and fundamental human rights, including the protection of privacy. Therefore, this ruling is also important for other European countries and on a wider international level."

From now on, as long as there is no well-founded suspicion, personal data from different sources may no longer be combined.

Line in the sand

"This ruling is an important line in the sand against the unbridled collection of data and risk profiling. The court puts a clear stop to the massive surveillance that innocent citizens have been under. SyRI and similar systems should be abolished immediately", states Privacy First director Vincent Böhre.

"Today we have been proved right on all fundamental aspects. This is a well-timed victory for the legal protection of all citizens in the Netherlands", says Tijmen Wisman of the Platform for the Protection of Civil Rights.

Another plaintiff in the case, trade union FNV, equally rejects SyRI on principal grounds. "We are delighted that the court has now definitively cancelled SyRI", comments Kitty Jong, vice chair of FNV.

Turning point

The parties hope that the ruling will herald a turning point in the way in which the government deals with the data of citizens. They believe this viewpoint is endorsed by the considerations of the court: these apply not only to SyRI, but also to similar practices. Many municipalities in the Netherlands have their own data linking systems which profile citizens for all sorts of policy purposes. When it comes to combining data, a legislative proposal that would be greater in scope than SyRI and would enable lumping together the databases of private parties and those of public authorities, was all but unthinkable. The decision by the Hague district court, however, clamps down on these Big Data practices. According to the claimant parties, it is therefore of crucial importance that the SyRI ruling will affect both current as well as future political policies.

Public debate

The case against SyRI serves both a legal and a social goal. With this ruling, both goals are reached. Merel Hendrickx of PILP-NJCM: "Apart from stopping SyRI, we also aimed at initiating a public debate about the way the government deals with citizens in a society undergoing digitisation. This ruling shows how important it is to have that discussion."

Although SyRI was adopted in 2014 without any fuss, the discussion about its legality intensified after the lawsuit was announced. At the start of 2019, the use of SyRI in two Rotterdam neighbourhoods led to protests among inhabitants and a discussion in the municipal council. Soon after, the mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb, pulled the plug on the SyRI program because of doubts over its legal basis. In June 2019, Dutch newspaper Volkskrant revealed that SyRI had not detected a single fraudster since its inception. In October 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, wrote a critical letter to the district court of The Hague expressing serious doubts over the legality of SyRI. Late November 2019, SyRI won a Big Brother Award.

The coalition of parties was represented in court by Anton Ekker (Ekker Advocatuur) and Douwe Linders (SOLV Attorneys). The proceedings were coordinated by the Public Interest Litigation Project (PILP) of the NJCM.

The full ruling of the court can be found HERE (official translation in English).

Published in Litigation

The Dutch Ministry of Finance is about to oblige companies to export personal data on a large scale. The measure is hidden in a subordinate clause of a letter from the Minister of Finance, although it has major consequences. The measure obliges companies that trade in 'virtual assets' (such as bitcoins, real estate, but also purchases in computer games) to include personal data of customers in the transaction records and messages. The information from all parties involved needs to remain visible and available to everyone in the value chain.

Consumers, companies and citizens cannot object to this mandatory addition of their personal data. The topic is not receiving the proper amount of political attention because it is presented as a technical measure. In his letter to Dutch Parliament of 21 March 2019, the Minister fails to point out the large scope and impact. It is, however, suggested that a consultation round will take the market responses to the envisaged rules onboard.

Privacy First and VBNL (United Bitcoin Companies Netherlands) have meanwhile understood that the worldwide objections to the proposed measure are being ignored. That is why they are today sending an urgent letter to the Dutch Minister of Finance. They ask him to study the issue better, with all relevant Ministries and in particular: to better inform Parliament. In doing so, they point to the conflicts of law that may arise as the measure may well violate international agreements and treaties that protect privacy.

Where it is known that consumers are very reluctant to make their own data available to private and commercial institutions, the government must be similarly reluctant on their behalf. Privacy First finds it extremely unfortunate that the Ministry of Finance seems to intend to give this all-in permission for unbridled export of personal data without giving it proper attention and without applying due process.

There is no merit to the claim that the measure is required for counter-terrorism purposes. Experts at Europol (!) indicate that the international proposal is "overkill" and not necessary for investigative purposes. The rule adds nothing to the existing European framework against money laundering and terrorist financing and only increases the risk of unwanted data breaches.

Privacy First and VBNL hope that their letter will make Dutch Parliament aware that this is a proposal that goes far beyond the much-debated access-regime of the recent second European Payment Services Directive (PSD2). With PSD2, consumers can decide to share data themselves. With this proposal, they will become deprived of that fundamental right for all kinds of economic acts. Privacy First and VBNL are calling on parliamentarians to protect consumers and businesses against this unnecessary planned measure.

The letter can be downloaded here (pdf).

PSD2 opt-out register

Is it possible to have innovation in the field of payment data while preserving privacy? Under the new European banking law PSD2, payment data can be shared with non banking parties. The legislator has, however, failed to implement privacy by design. Therefore, the Privacy First Foundation has taken the initiative to launch a PSD2 opt-out register in the Netherlands. We are happy to report that the SIDN Fund is supporting us in this. With this opt-out register bank account numbers can be filtered. This can be useful in case bank account numbers are linked to sensitive personal data, such as a payment to a trade union, a healthcare insurer, a political party or an organization that reveals one’s sexual preference. It can also be useful when consumers wish to filter their contra accounts. The Dutch PSD2 opt-out register could become trendsetting at a European level.

Source: https://www.sidnfonds.nl/nieuws/de-eerste-pioniers-van-2019, 22 May 2019 (in Dutch).

Follow https://psd2meniet.nl for updates and become a member of our PSD2 Privacy Panel! (in Dutch)


For all its projects and affiliated activities, Privacy First is largely dependent on donations. The more financial support and donations we receive, the sooner Privacy First will be able to launch the PSD2 opt-out register.

In the context of the National Privacy Conference organized by Privacy First and ECP today the Dutch Privacy Awards have been handed out. These Awards offer a podium to organisations that consider privacy as an opportunity to positively distinguish themselves and want privacy-friendly entrepreneurship and innovation to become a benchmark. The winners of the 2019 Dutch Privacy Awards are Startpage.com as well as Privacy Company & SURF. PublicSpaces received the incentive prize.

Winner: Startpage.com

With Private Search 2.0, Startpage.com allows those who find profiling and targeting on the basis of search queries oppressing, to breathe a little more freely again. The basic promise of Startpage is that its users can question Google Search without having to fear that Google accords a permanent data trail to every single query. Moreover, Startpage.com enables searching through an anonymizing proxy. It therefore meets the needs of anyone who doesn’t want to be confronted with targeted ads on the basis of search queries. Think of people who search for information related to financial, relationship or health problems. And naturally any other person who, by default, wishes to stay clear of foreign companies that trade in personal data (based in Silicon Valley and elsewhere). Startpage.com thus offers people an important and very privacy-friendly opportunity to visit websites without having to worry about unwanted profiling and without being confronted with one’s own search behavior.

Winner: Privacy Designer (Privacy Company and SURF)

Privacy Designer is a Privacy Company and SURF web app which helps SMEs, associations and NGOs to identify privacy risks. The app has been co-financed by the SIDN Fund and can be used free of charge.

The expert panel was deeply impressed by this solution. It’s a practical and innovative app which has a large impact on society because research points out that the target group is often insufficiently aware of the privacy risks to which it is exposed and doesn’t quite know how to deal with such risks appropriately. Another advantage of Privacy Designer is the fact that all data is stored on one’s own device and the use of personal data is kept to a minimum. In short, this entry can potentially improve the privacy of a large group of people in an effective and accessible way.

Winner: PublicSpaces

There is a lot that goes on online that internet users can’t see and are not aware of. Advertising displayed on the basis of search behavior can be a great annoyance. Meanwhile, we become increasingly dependent on online information gathering, navigation and cloud storage. This makes a few dominant commercial companies ever more powerful.

PublicSpaces is a coalition of public broadcasters and cultural organizations that aim to ‘repair’ the internet by restoring it to a community of users. They try to do so by collaborating with a number of relevant parties and by offering alternatives. In particular, the fact that data so easily ends up across different platforms is a thorn in the eye of PublicSpaces. With open source initiatives and the use of IRMA (‘I Reveal my Attributes’, an open source identity platform which won a Dutch Privacy Award last year), the coalition attempts to improve online privacy. The expert panel wholeheartedly encourages PublicSpaces’ mission.

Nominations

There are four categories in which applicants are awarded:

1. the category of Consumer solutions (business-to-consumer)

2. the category of Business solutions (within a company or business-to-business)

3. the category of Public services (public authority-to-citizen)

4. The incentive prize for a ground breaking technology or person.

From the various entries, the independent expert panel chose the following nominees per category:

Consumer solutions: Business solutions: Public services:
Private Search 2.0 (Startpage.com)

Privacy op Schooltas  

Passantentellingen (Municipality of Nijmegen)

VraagApp Privacy Designer (Privacy Company and SURF) Project privacy by design (Dutch Tax Authorities)
Schluss    

During the Dutch National Privacy Conference the nominees presented their projects to the audience in Award pitches. Thereafter, the Awards were handed out. Click HERE for the entire expert panel report (Dutch pdf), which includes participation criteria and explanatory notes on all the nominees and winners.

winnaars Awards 28jan2019

National Privacy Conference

The National Privacy Conference is a ECP|Platform for the Information Society and Privacy First initiative. Once a year, this conference brings together Dutch industry, public authorities, the academic community and civil society with the aim to build a privacy-friendly information society. The mission of both the National Privacy Conference and Privacy First is to turn the Netherlands into a guiding nation in the field of privacy and data protection. To this end, privacy by design is key.

These were the speakers during the 2019 National Privacy Conference in successive order:

Aleid Wolfsen (chairman of the Dutch Data Protection Authority)
Sophie in ‘t Veld (Member of the European Parliament)
Tijmen Schep (PrivacyLabel)
Brenno de Winter (IT researcher)
Jeroen Terstegge (Privacy Management Partners).

Expert panel of the Dutch Privacy Awards

The independent expert Award panel consists of privacy experts from different fields:

  • Bart van der Sloot, senior researcher at Tilburg University (panel chairman)
  • Bas Filippini, founder and chairman of Privacy First
  • Paul Korremans, data protection & security professional at Comfort Information Architects (and Privacy First board member)
  • Marie-José Bonthuis, IT’s Privacy owner
  • Esther Janssen, attorney specialized in information law and fundamental rights, Brandeis Attorneys
  • Esther Keymolen, philosopher of technology, TILT, Tilburg University
  • Matthijs Koot, senior security specialist, Secura BV
  • Marc van Lieshout, senior researcher at TNO and managing director at PI.lab
  • Wendeline Sjouwerman, privacy specialist who focuses on local governments and health care.

In order to make sure that the Award process is run objectively, the panel may not judge on any entry of his or her own organization.

Privacy First organizes the Dutch Privacy Awards with the support of the Democracy & Media Foundation and in collaboration with ECP. Would you like to become a partner or sponsor of the Dutch Privacy Awards? Then please contact Privacy First!

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Published in Actions
Wednesday, 02 January 2019 17:45

Privacy First New Year’s column

Writing a New Year’s Column about the state of affairs concerning the protection of everyone’s privacy weighs me down this year. With the exception of a few bright spots, privacy in the Netherlands and the rest of the world has greatly deteriorated. For a while it seemed that the revelations of Edward Snowden in 2013 about secret services tracking everyone’s online behavior would be a rude wake-up call for the world. It was thought that an increasing number of data breaches and a rising number of governments and companies getting hacked, would make people realize that large amounts of data stored centrally is not the solution. The Arab Spring in 2015 would bring about major change through the unprecedented use of (social) media.

The European Union successfully voted against the exchange of data relating to travel movements, paved the way for the current General Data Protection Regulation and seemed to become the shining alternative example under the guidance of Germany, a country known for its vigilance when it comes to privacy. Unfortunately, things turned out differently. Under the Obama administration, Snowden was shunned as a traitor and other whistleblowers were clamped down on harder than ever before. Julian Assange was forced into exile while murdering people with the use of drones and without any form of trial was implemented on a large scale. Extrajudicial killings with collateral damage... While the discussion was about waterboarding... Discussions on such ‘secondary topics’ have by now become commonplace in politics, and so has the framing and blaming of opponents in the polarized public debate (the focus is usually on the person rather than on the argument itself).

Looking back on 2018, Privacy First identifies a great number of areas where the breakdown of privacy is evident:

Government & privacy

In March, an advisory referendum in the Netherlands was held on the introduction of the so-called Tapping law. Immediately after that, the referendum was abrogated. This happened in a time of unprecedented technological possibilities to organize referendums in various ways in a shared democracy. That’s outrageous. The outcome of the referendum was not taken into account and the Tapping law was introduced just like that. Moreover, it turned out that all along, the Dutch Minister of the Interior had withheld an important report on the functioning of the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service.

Apparently this was nothing to worry about and occurred without any consequences. The recent report by the Dutch State Commission on the (re)introduction of referendums will likely end up in a drawer, not to be looked at again.

Fear of losing one’s role and the political mood of the day are all too important in a culture in which ‘professional politicians’ are afraid to make mistakes, but which is full of incidents nonetheless. One’s job or profession comes first, representing citizens comes second. Invariably, incidents are put under a magnifying glass in order to push through binding legislation with a broad scope. Without the review of compliance with guiding principles such as necessity, purpose limitation, subsidiarity and proportionality. There is an ever wider gap between government and citizens, who are not trusted but are expected to be fully transparent towards that self-same government. A government that time and again appears to be concealing matters from citizens. A government that is required by law to protect and promote privacy, but is itself still the most prominent privacy-violator.

The medical establishment & privacy

In this area things got really out of hand in 2018. Through various coordinated media offensives, the EU and the member states are trying to make us believe in the advantages of relinquishing our right to physical integrity and our humanity. Sharing biometric data with the United States continues unabatedly. We saw the police calling for compulsory DNA databases, compulsory vaccination programs, the use of smart medicines with microchips and the phasing out of alternative therapies. Furthermore, health insurance companies cautiously started to cover genetic testing and increasingly doing away with medical confidentiality, the Organ Donation Act was introduced and microchips implanted in humans (the cyborg as the highest ideal in Silicon Valley propaganda) became ever more popular.

How long before microchips become compulsory for all citizens? All (domestic) animals in the EU have already preceded us. And then there’s the Electronic Health Record, which was first rejected in the Dutch Senate but has reappeared on the minister’s agenda via a detour. Driven by commercial interests, it is being rammed down the throats of general practitioners while alternatives such as Whitebox are not taken seriously. The influence of Big Pharma through lobbying with government bodies and participating in government working groups is particularly acute. They closely cooperate with a few IT companies to realize their ideal of large and centralized networks and systems. It’s their year-end bonus and growth at the expense of our freedom and well-being.

Media & privacy

Naturally, we cannot overlook ‘fake news’. One of the premises for having privacy is being able to form your own opinion and respect and learn from the opinions of others. Furthermore, independent left and right-wing media are essential in a democratic constitutional State. It's their task to monitor the functioning of elected and unelected representatives in politics and in government. Journalists should be able to penetrate into the capillaries of society in order to produce local, national and global news.

Ever since free news gathering came about, it has been a challenge to obtain news based on facts. It’s not always easy to distinguish a press service, PR and propaganda from one another. In times of rapid technological changes and new opportunities, they should be continuously reviewed according to the principles of journalism. That’s nothing new. What is new, however, is that the European Union and our own Minister for the Interior, Kajsa Ollongren, feel they’re doing the right thing by outsourcing censorship to social media companies that are active on a global scale and have proven to be unreliable.

While Facebook and Google have to defend themselves in court for spreading fake news and censoring accounts, the governments hand over the monitoring task to them. The privacy violators and fake news distributors as the guardians of our privacy and journalism. That’s the world upside down. By so doing, this minister and this government undermine the constitutional State and show disdain for intelligent citizens. It’s time for a structural change in our media system, based on new technologies such as blockchain and the founding of a government media office whose task is to fund all media outlets through citizens’ contributions, taking into account the media’s scope and number of members. So that concerns all media, including the so-called alternative media, which should not be censored.

Finance & privacy

The erosion of one’s privacy increasingly manifests itself at a financial level too. The fact of the matter is, that the tax authorities already know in detail what the spending pattern of all companies and citizens looks like. Thanks to the Tapping Law, they can now pass on this information in real-time to the secret services (the General Intelligence and Security Service is watching along). Furthermore, a well-intended initiative such as PSD2 is being introduced in a wholly improvident and privacy-unfriendly way: basic conditions relating to the ownership of bank details (of citizens, account holders) are devoid of substance. Simple features such as selective sharing of banking details, for example according to the type of payment or time period, are not available. What’s more, payment details of third parties who have not given their consent, are sent along.

In the meantime, the ‘cash = criminal’ campaign goes on relentlessly. The right to cash and anonymous payment disappears, despite even the Dutch Central Bank now warning that the role of cash is crucial to our society. Privacy First has raised its opinion on this topic already in 2016 during a public debate. The latest development in this regard is the further linking of information through Big Data and profiling by debt-collecting agencies and public authorities. Excluding citizens from the electronic monetary system as a new form of punishment instead of letting them pay fines is a not so distant prospect. In this regard, a lot of experimentation is going on in China and there have been calls in Europe to move in the same direction, supposedly in order to fight terrorism. In other words, in the future it will become increasingly difficult to raise your voice and organize against abuse of power by governments and companies: from on high it takes only the press of a button and you may no longer be able to withdraw cash, travel or carry out online activities. In which case you have become an electronic outcast, banished from society.

Public domain & privacy

In 2018, privacy in public space has all but improved. Whereas 20 years ago, the Netherlands was deemed too small to require everyone out on the streets to be able to identify themselves, by now, all governments and municipalities in Europe are developing ‘smart city’ concepts. If you ask what the benefits and use of a smart city are (beyond the permanent supervision of citizens), proponents will say something vague about traffic problems and that the 'killer applications' will become visible only once the network of beacons is in place. In other words, there are absolutely no solid figures which would justify the necessity, subsidiarity and proportionality of smart cities. And that’s not even taking basic civil rights such as privacy into consideration.

Just to give a few examples:

  • ANPR legislation applies from 1 January 2019 (all travel movements on public roads will be stored in a centralized police database for four weeks)
  • A database consisting of all travel movements and stays of European citizens and toll rates as per 2023
  • Emergency chips in every vehicle with a two-way communication feature (better known as spyware) as per 1 January 2019
  • Cameras and two-way communication in public space, built into the lampposts among other objects as part of smart city projects
  • A decision to introduce additional cameras in public transport as per 2019
  • The introduction of Smart Cities and the introduction of unlimited beacons (doesn’t it sound so much better than electronic concentration camp posts?)
  • Linking together all traffic centers and control rooms (including those of security companies operating on the private market)
  • Citizens are permanently monitored by invisible and unknown eyes.

Private domain & privacy

It’s well known that governments and companies are keen to take a peek in our homes, but the extent to which this was being advanced last year, was outside of all proportion. Let’s start with energy companies, who foist compulsory smart meters on citizens. By way of ‘appointment to install a smart meter’, which you didn’t ask for, it’s almost impossible to stay clear of red tape. After several cancellations on my part and phone calls to energy provider Nuon, they simply continued to push forward. I still don’t have a smart meter and it will stay like that.

Once again Silicon Valley featured prominently in the news in 2018. Unelected dictatorial executives who are no less powerful than many a nation state, promote their utopias as trendy and modern among citizens. Self-driving cars take the autonomy and joy away from citizens (the number of accidents is very small considering the millions of cars on the road each day), while even children can tell that a hybrid approach is the only option. The implementation of smart speakers by these social media companies is downright spooky. By bringing smart toys onto the market, toy manufacturers equally respond to the needs that we all seem to have. We can all too readily guess what these developments will mean for our privacy. The manipulation of facts and images as well as distortion, will starkly increase.

Children & privacy

Children and youths represent the future and nothing of the above bodes well for them. Screen addiction is sharply on the rise and as children are being raised amidst propaganda and fake news, much more attention should go out to forming one’s own opinion and taking responsibility. Centralized pupil monitoring systems are introduced indifferently in the education system, information is exchanged with parents and not having interactive whiteboards and Ipads in the classroom has become unthinkable. The first thing children see every single day, is a screen with Google on it... Big Brother.

Dependence on the internet and social media results in impulsive behaviour among children, exposes them to the madness of the day and affects their historical awareness and ability to discern underlying links. The way of thinking at universities is becoming increasingly one-sided and undesirable views are marginalized. The causes of problems are not examined, books are not read though there is certainly no lack of opinions. It’s all about making your voice heard within the limits of self-censorship that’s in force in order to prevent becoming the odd one out in the group. The same pattern can be identified when it comes to forming opinions in politics, where discussing various issues based on facts seems no longer possible. Not to mention that the opinions of citizens are considered irrelevant by our politicians. Good quality education focused on forming opinions and on creating self-reflective minds instead of a robot-way of thinking, is essential for the development of a healthy democracy.

Are there any positive developments?

It's no easy task to identify any positive developments in the field of privacy. The fact is that the introduction of the GDPR and the corresponding option to impose fines has brought privacy more sharply into focus among companies and citizens than the revelations of Snowden have been able to do. The danger of the GDPR, however, is that it narrows down privacy to data protection and administrative red tape.

Another positive development is the growing number of (as of yet small) initiatives whereby companies and governments consider privacy protection as a business or PR opportunity. This is proved by the number of participants in the 2019 Dutch Privacy Awards. Recurring themes are means of anonymous communication (email, search engines, browsers), possible alternatives to social networks (messaging services like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) on the basis of subscriptions, blockchain technology and privacy by design projects by large organizations and companies.

Privacy First has teamed up with a few top quality pro bono attorneys who are prepared to represent us in court. However, judges are reluctant to go off the beaten track and come up with progressive rulings in cases such as those concerning number plate parking, average speed checks, Automatic Number Plate Recognition, the Tapping Law, etc. For years, Privacy First has been suffering from a lack of funding. Many of those who sympathize with us, find the topic of privacy a bit eerie. They support us morally but don’t dare to make a donation. After all, you draw attention to yourself when you’re concerned with issues such as privacy. That’s how bad things have become; fear and self-censorship... two bad counsellors! It’s high time for a government that seriously deals with privacy issues.

Constitutional reform should urgently be placed on the agenda

Privacy First is a great proponent of constitutional reform (see our 2017 New Year’s column about Shared Democracy), based on the principles of the democratic constitutional State and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Our democracy is only 150 years old and should be adapted to this current day and age. This means that the structure of the EU should be changed. Citizens should take on a central and active role. Government policies should focus on technological developments in order to reinforce democracy and formulate a response to the concentration of power of multinational companies.

Privacy First argues that the establishment of a Ministry of Technology has the highest priority in order to be able to stay up to date with the rapid developments in this field and produce adequate policies accordingly. It should live up to the standards of the ECHR and the Dutch Constitution and avoid becoming a victim of the increasing lobbying efforts in this sector. Moreover, it is time for a Minister of IT & Privacy who stays up to date on all developments and acts with sufficient powers and in accordance with the review of a Constitutional Court.

The protection of citizens’ privacy should be facilitated and there should be privacy-friendly alternatives for current services by technology companies. For 2019, Privacy First has a few tips for ordinary citizens:

  • Watch out for and stay away from ‘smart’ initiatives on the basis of Big Data and profiling!
  • Keep an eye on the ‘cash = criminal’ campaign. Make at least 50% of your payments anonymously in cash.
  • Be cautious when communicating through Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. Look for or develop new platforms based on Quantum AI encryption and use alternative browsers (TOR), networks (VPN) and search engines (Startpage).
  • Be careful when it comes to medical data and physical integrity. Use your right for there to be no exchange of medical data as long as initiatives such as Whitebox are not used.
  • Be aware of your right to stay anonymous, at home and in public space. Campaign against toll payment, microchips in number plates, ANPR and number plate parking.
  • Be aware of your legal rights to bring lawsuits, for example against personalized waste disposal passes, camera surveillance, etc.
  • Watch out for ‘smart’ meters, speakers, toys and other objects in the house connected to the internet. Purchase only privacy by design solutions with privacy enhanced technology!

The Netherlands and Europe as guiding nations in the field of privacy, with groundbreaking initiatives and solutions for apparent contradictions concerning privacy and security issues - that’s Privacy First's aim. There’s still a long way to go, however, and we’re being blown off course ever more. That’s due in part because a comprehensive vision on our society and a democracy 3.0 is lacking. So we continue to drift rudderless, ending up in the big manipulation machine of large companies one step at a time. We need many more yellow vests before things change. Privacy First would like to contribute to shaping and promoting a comprehensive, positive vision for the future. A future based on the principles that our society was built on and the need for greater freedom, with all the inevitable restrictions this entails. We will have to do it together. Please support Privacy First actively with a generous donation for your own freedom and that of your children in 2019!

To an open and free society! I wish everyone a lot of privacy in 2019 and beyond!

Bas Filippini, Privacy First chairman

Published in Columns

New European PSD2 legislation in force

At the start of 2019, the Payment Service Directive 2 will enter into force in the Netherlands. Under this new European banking law, consumers can share their banking details with parties other than their own bank. This first requires their explicit consent, upon which banks must share all transactional data[1] of the consumer (account holder) with an external party (financial service provider) for a period of 90 days, after which the consumer can renew his consent. The consumer can also withdraw his consent at all times.

PSD2 is a great concern to Privacy First

Privacy First is very worried about PSD2. The law focuses too much on improving competition and innovation while the privacy interest of account holders is overlooked. These are Privacy First’s greatest concerns:

  • Consumers are not in a position to limit the amount of banking details. Even in case a financial service provider does not need these details, all data are shared just the same once the account holder has issued his consent.
  • The bank details of a consumer include the details of contra accounts. Holders of such accounts are unaware of the fact that their details may be shared and are not in a position to prevent that. As transactional data will be analyzed much more widely with the use of Big Data and data analyses than before the introduction of PSD2, there will be a much greater risk of privacy violations.
  • Banking details contain ‘sensitive personal data’ that may only be issued under strict conditions.[2] A subscription payment to a trade union, political party or organization that reveals one’s sexual preferences, should be considered sensitive personal data according to Privacy First. The same applies to transactions with health insurance companies and pharmacists. Currently, there is no way to filter out these data and they are being issued to parties that are not allowed to process them.

During an episode of the Dutch television program Radar that was broadcast on Monday 7 January 2019, Privacy First drew particular attention to these issues.

PSD2 quality label aims for transparency

Privacy First wants consumers to get honest and transparent information on what happens to their data. We advocate not for lengthy privacy statements, but rather for information that fits on a single sheet of paper. This information should not come from the financial industry, but from consumers themselves. After all, they can best decide which information they find valuable when making a choice. During 2018, Privacy First worked on this initiative along with the Volksbank and other partners from the financial sector.

PSD2 opt-out register

Privacy First is surprised that no attention has been paid to the role of ‘sensitive personal details’ in transactional data. Such details may only be shared under strict conditions and therefore have to be filtered out. Equally, consumers who do not want others to share their data with financial service providers should have the opportunity to prevent this. That is why Privacy First would like to see an opt-out register, similar to the do-not-call-me register which has been around in the Netherlands for many years. During the Radar broadcast, Privacy First announced it would bring forward this proposal, hoping to be able to develop it further together with the financial sector and policy makers. The aim is to have a compulsory opt-out register. This will, however, require amending the European PSD2 directive.

[1] Additional information: it concerns all transactional data. The extent to which these data go back in time varies per bank. See the overview (in Dutch) of the Dutch consumer association: The majority of account holders saves their bank statements for at least five years https://www.consumentenbond.nl/betaalrekening/meerderheid-bewaart-rekeningafschriften-ten-minste-5-jaar.
[2] Additional information: this is included in Article 9 of the GDPR and in Article 22 of the Dutch GDPR implementation Act. In short, processing sensitive personal data is unlawful, with a few exceptions. See (in Dutch) https://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0040940/2018-05-25.

A train passenger has submitted an enforcement request to the Dutch Data Protection Authority, because he argues that Dutch Railways (NS) violates the privacy of train passengers.

In response to three new attempts by Dutch Railways (NS) to violate the privacy of train passengers, NS customer Michiel Jonker has submitted a request for enforcement to the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA). It concerns:

  • Rejecting the reimbursement of the remaining balance on anonymous public transport chip cards if the holder does not provide his or her name and address data to NS;
  • Refusing international train tickets by NS employees at station desks if buyers do not provide their name and address data to NS;
  • Charging, since 2 July 2018, additional "service costs" when holders of anonymous public transport chip cards pay in cash for topping up the balance on these cards.

Since July 2014, NS has already launched attacks on the privacy of Dutch train passengers in various ways. It then concerned:

  • Discriminating holders of anonymous public transport chip cards in discount hours;
  • Requiring de-anonymization of the anonymous public transport chip cards when NS is asked to provide services (for example, reimbursing money in the event of delays);
  • Applying two unique card numbers on each anonymous OV chip card, as a result of which the anonymity of these cards is affected.

As a traveler who wants to maintain his privacy, Jonker repeatedly asked the DPA to investigate these violations and to take enforcement measures. Jonker already won several lawsuits against the DPA, which initially refused to even investigate the reports.

The recently adopted General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will play an important role in the assessment of the new violations by NS. Another central issue will be the right to pay by cash, which protects privacy.

Jonker: "In all these matters, the question is whether users of Dutch public transport are entitled to a real, effective protection of their privacy. This question is more relevant than ever, when you see how people are treated in situations where privacy is not adequately protected. We don't only think about China with its Social Credit score, or the United States with their "No Fly" lists, but also about European countries where laws have been adopted in recent years that allow the government to spy on travelers who are not even suspected of any punishable or risky behavior. For example France with its permanent state of emergency and the Netherlands with its new Intelligence and Security Act."

In this new case, Jonker is supported by Privacy First and Maatschappij voor Beter OV.


Source: https://www.liberties.eu/en/news/ns-privacy-fight-passenger-privacy/15444, 25 July 2018.

Published in Mobility

During a Dutch press meeting about the new Payment Service Directive 2 (PSD2), an initiative to launch a privacy quality label for payment services was announced. This quality label should encourage financial service providers and fintech companies to focus on the privacy of consumers.

Volksbank

If you struggle to make ends meet, sooner or later you will get physical complaints, two Utrecht physicians wrote in Dutch newspaper AD/Utrechts Nieuwsblad of 7 March 2018. Those who want to lead a healthy life, will first have to make sure they’re in a healthy financial position. Being in control of your own finances and all related data is a part of that. De Volksbank offers a helping hand in both these areas.

The new European Payment Service Directive 2 (PSD2) paves the way for payment apps of new parties. Banks no longer have the exclusive right to offer payment services. This appears to be good news for consumers. But there is a downside too. Customers who share their data with any such new service provider, should take into account that part of those data are privacy-sensitive. A bank cannot recover such data once in the hands of other financial service providers, so the consumer cannot resort to anyone but himself if he regrets his decisions.

The Dutch Consumers' Association (Consumentenbond) has recently warned that personal data are already being collected on a large scale for commercial reasons. With the introduction of PSD2, this will only increase. Ninety days of access to personal information is sufficient for service providers to create digital profiles that can be traded. De Volksbank does not want to create profiles and is of the opinion that client information should be secure in the hands of the bank: ‘‘That means that we don’t sell information of clients, neither on an individual nor on an aggregated level. We earn our money as a bank, not by selling the data of our clients.'’

De Volksbank considers it to be its role of helping clients deal with their data in a secure and deliberate way in an environment that has changed. By providing information (free is never really free), but also by encouraging clients to take additional measures:

  • When it comes to taking deliberate decisions on sharing data, clients should increase their self-awareness by operating a Main Switch. The default setting of the Main Switch should be ‘off’. Before a client is able to authorize the bank to share his data with third parties, he should first flick the Main Switch. The client should then authorize the sharing of data for each party. In so doing, he can stop sharing his data with any party at any moment. Alternatively, he can flick the Main Switch, blocking the access to his data of all parties in a single instant.
  • In cooperation with De Volksbank, several other banks, KPMG and fintech companies, Privacy First is developing a PSD2 quality label. This should answer the call of the Central Bank of the Netherlands (DNB), which ascertained that as of yet there is no such quality label, while there is the need to have one. As far as we know, the Netherlands is the first country to be working on this issue. Thanks to the PSD2 quality label, consumers should at once be able to tell which parties they can or cannot entrust their data to. De Volksbank is working hard on further developing the quality label in order for it to be ready as soon as the Payment Service Directive 2 has been transposed into Dutch legislation.

Privacy First

The Privacy First Foundation supports the PSD2 privacy quality label. Privacy First would like it to become an international label which is recognized and supported by banks, fintech companies, financial service providers, regulators and consumer organizations.

PSD2 offers advantages, but also puts people’s privacy at risk. People are more than just consumers. Privacy First doubts whether the measures laid down in PSD2 to protect the data and therewith the privacy of people, will be sufficient. For the protection of personal data, PSD2 relies heavily on the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This regulation has not yet come into force and we don’t know which effects PSD2 will have in practice and what the monitoring of it will look like. Many organizations are not yet ready to comply with all of the GDPR requirements. However, they will not hold off providing their services. In turn, regulators are not yet ready to enforce all aspects of the GDPR. Introducing PSD2 is like going out to fly without checking the parachute.

We hope that the quality label will encourage financial service providers and fintech companies to start considering consumers as human beings. We want the requirements of the label to be set higher each year. We also want service providers to consider the ‘information behind the information’:

  • The disclosure of behavior and data by others
  • Services with the underlying aim of collecting data (improper application)
  • Deducting data, such as transaction data from which sensitive personal data can be deduced.

We call on fintech companies to continue to explore ways to limit the amounts of data they collect and store. Think of excluding transaction data that could indicate religion, political preference or health status. Limiting the retention period of transaction data is another measure to take into consideration.


This article has also been published on privacy-web.nl.

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