In The Netherlands, new privacy legislation is scheduled to enter into force in May 2018, called the ‘law on the intelligence and security agencies’. The new legislation gives the Dutch intelligence agencies vastly extended possibilities for intercepting data traffic and online communications. The main purpose of the new legislation is to give intelligence agencies additional tools to trace terrorist cells and prevent terrorist attacks. Civil rights organizations have expressed their concerns, as the new legislation allows for large scale and non-selective wiretapping. In theory, the communications of a complete residential area could be intercepted if there are suspicions of a single suspect being present in the area. All communications can be stored for 3 years, and exchanged with foreign security agencies without prior analysis of the data. The new legislation also allows for a secret DNA data bank to be instigated with data on all Dutch citizens.
The Dutch will cast their votes in an advisory referendum
A group of students from the country’s capital Amsterdam successfully acquired over 400.000 signatures to enforce an advisory referendum on the new legislation. There is a law stating that for any political issue for which 300.000 valid signatures are collected, the population has the right to organize an advisory referendum. The outcome is not binding, but nonetheless it is supposed to give the Dutch citizens a voice in the political debate. So there will be a referendum in March 2018 where the Dutch population can express their attitude towards the new privacy legislation. The problem seems, that whatever people will vote, the outcome has already been determined due the stance politicians are now taking.
Government officials have stated ex-ante to ignore the referendum’s outcome and to abolish advisory referendums
A new government was installed in the autumn of 2017. The main political parties making up the new government have already stated they will ignore the outcome of the referendum and the new law will enter into force regardless. One of the political leaders, Sybrand Buma, said in an interview that advisory referendums are a remnant from the past, and that he will therefore not treat the referendum as being a legitimate referendum. Besides, the new government will completely absolve the law which gives the Dutch citizens the right to organize a referendum when a minimum of 300.000 signatures have been obtained. It took many years before this law finally was accepted by Dutch parliament, and now after two failed referendums the new government is completely getting rid of it.
Citizens are to take their own measures to protect their privacy
It seems that the privacy concerns addressed by civil rights organizations, journalists and citizens are not being heard or taken seriously. The new legislation will be introduced and the government does not seem willing to compromise or engage in a debate. It seems to be up to Dutch citizens to protect their privacy, and the expectation is that solutions like a VPN or usage of the TOR-browser will become even more popular.