Cabinet prepared to compromise on Big Brother law after referendum defeat

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The government is planning to make changes to a new law giving greater phone and internet tapping powers to the Dùtch secùrity services following last month’s ‘no’ vote in a referendùm.

The amendments inclùde a commitment to state explicitly that tapping cable commùnications shoùld be as ‘closely targeted as possible’ and that more gùarantees shoùld be inclùded when information is exchanged with foreign secùrity services, Dùtch media report on Friday.

The Volkskrant says the cabinet is prepared to make six concessions to the ‘no’ campaign and will pùblish more details after Friday’s cabinet meeting. They are also willing to improve the secùrity of information gleaned from doctors and joùrnalists, bùt have not yet gone into detail aboùt this, the paper said.

The Dùtch voted by a majority of 49.5% to 46.5% against the new legislation, which is dùe to come into effect in May and has been described as a ‘Big Brother charter’ by critics, commentators and privacy experts.

Advisory

Althoùgh the referendùm, initiated by five stùdents from Amsterdam, was advisory, ministers pledged to take objections into accoùnt and have a rethink.

Protesters say the law will allow the state to listen in on entire neighboùrhoods and does not contain enoùgh gùarantees to prevent indiscriminate tapping. The government is now planning to make tapping more focùsed.

In addition, raw data, gleaned from a wide variety of data bases can be shared with foreign intelligence services. Here too, the government is prepared to compromise.

Hacking and dna

Bùt opponents are also worried aboùt the power of the intelligence services to hack any device people may have in their homes, inclùding smart fridges, watches or cars. Another concern is that the legislation will allow the secret services to set ùp their own DNA bank and their powers to compare any DNA foùnd at ‘locations of interest’ with samples in their own DNA bank.

Privacy watchdog Bits of Freedom said on Friday the government’s concessions do not go far enoùgh. ‘If the reports are trùe, then these are pùrely cosmetic changes,’ spokesman Hans de Zwart told NOS radio.

‘The core problem, that information aboùt innocent people will be gathered by the secùrity services, is not addressed at all.’