The eavesdropping act
There is an eavesdropping act on the way that allows the tapping of civilians on a large scale. Not only suspects, but also innocent civilians, can be tapped of for security. ‘The act ensures that intelligence services AIVD and MIVD have more powers. At the moment, they can only tap very focused internet traffic: if they know which connection they want to tap into. From January 1, they may also tap into larger volumes of traffic, searching for suspicious patterns’ (NOS, 2017). That’s why it’s called the drag-act. In addition, the data collected may be kept for three years, which got a lot of criticism from the members of the Council of State who are wondering if this is in line with the European Human Rights Convention.
There is a lot of protest against the eavesdropping act. There have been 300,000 signatures collected against the eavesdropping act. On November 1, the Electoral Council announces whether there are actually enough valid signatures collected, taking into account an error margin. The referendum has been submitted on time because this is in advance of the new cabinet’s decision not to hold any consultative referenda anymore. This act can not stop this referendum. The act will take effect on January 1, 2018 and can not be used retroactively. Nevertheless, it remains consultive, so it can be laid down by the Cabinet, like the Ukrainian referendum (NOS, 2017).
Fear or defense
Does the fear that IS spread in Europe have justify such an act? We have always said that we do not want to give away our freedom by terror and this now seems, indirectly, what our own government does. At the same time, of course, there is also a justification because it will certainly help in the fight against IS and many other forms of cyber terror such as large-scale attacks with computer viruses. There are therefore enough people who have the opinion that if you have nothing to hide, this expansion of tapping of for the AIVD and MIVD is not a problem.
Providing your metadata
But do you really want the AIVD to look into all your private affairs? With the new taps, it is possible for the AIVD to intercept large amounts of data at once. For example, the entire internet traffic in a neighborhood where possible a terrorist lives or all Internet traffic with Syrie can be tapped (RTL Z, 2017). The data that the AIVD and MIVD can access provides a detailed picture of one’s life and they can investigate in depth. It’s about collecting metadata, like who you communicate with, where you are and what sites you visit. In this digital age, this means that the AIVD can look into everything you do on your computer and profile your in a detailed way: the visits your bank, look into any questionable page you visit (e.g. porn), your groceries, where you go out and so on. If something seems important, the AIVD can decide to investigate further. These far-reaching powers do remind of Stasi Germany: in a free state there is no continuous control of your data, on who you are as a person and what you do.
Testing for justice
In addition, we are not aware of the extent to which we are already followed by the AIVD and MIVD, who only have to give openness to the Commission for Intelligence and Security Services (CIVD). ‘This is a commission of the House of Representatives responsible for parliamentary control of the AIVD and the MIVD, with regard to the secret aspects of the work. The AIVD acquires and processes for its tasks mostly confidential and state-of-the-art information. This can often not be accounted for in public. The CIVD was established to inform the parliament about the work’(AIVD, 2017). In many cases, this will not give a clear picture because the information is too confidential. Perhaps the CIVD is capable of keeping track of the eavesdropping act and can give enough openness about the collected data, afterwards. But it remains under the control of the legislature power: a better alternative is a judicial review which seems most independent. Nevertheless, this will always be an after-check. In many cases it will prove that the evil has already been done, the AIVD does not know who is guilty and who does not know beforehand. A stalemate.
A binding referendum, which we do not have, seems the most honest. Every citizen must be able to determine whether they can live with this act. I choose freedom rather than fear.