Jacques Mattheij

Technology, Coding and Business

Wholesale Privacy violations in the European Union

The European Union is usually heralded as a place where privacy still has some meaning, with the exception of England, which people seem to see in a different light because of the prevalence of surveilance cameras.

Today, while searching for something else I ran in to this page: (dutch) http://www.security.nl/artikel/30389/1/Overzicht_anti-privacy_maatregelen_Nederlandse_overheid.html , which enumerates a series of anti-privacy measures that have been taken in the Netherlands since 2001.

  • tapping requirement for internet traffic

  • allowing the police to perform preventive frisking

  • a general identification duty

  • an RFID chip in the passports

  • all public providers of email and internet have to supply lists of their customers on a daily basis to a government institution

  • camera usage without any oversight rising enormously

  • the secret service gets access to all immigration data

  • anonymous travel by public transport no longer possible because of a personalized chip card that you have to use

  • the creation of an electronic ‘per child’ file which is accessible to a series of government institutions

  • an electronic medical datbase (with a very convoluted opt-out procedure)

  • 6 month requirement to store location data of mobile phones

  • finger prints in passports

  • finger prints on id cards

  • you have to have either a passport or an ID card when you are 14 years or older

  • a database of fingerprints of all people that are 14 years or older

  • a DNA database of ‘offenders’ or those that have ever been caught up in the dragnet around a rape case

That’s just 10 years, or to be precise only about 8 12, and we had a close call on being forced to carry a GPS based reporting device in our cars in order to pay an extra tax on the use of public roads (never mind that that effect could be achieved cheaper with an extra tax on fuel, which is already outrageously expensive here).

The scary thing here is that there is no public outrage, that people in general are just fine with the government having all this information on them. The theory is that if it solves some crimes and helps against ‘the terrorists’ that it is good.

Ask Brandon Mayfield what he thinks about fingerprint databases, he’s the lawyer that got linked to the Madrid bombings because his fingerprint was taken when he was in the national reserve, and later converted to Islam (of course, the latter had nothing to do with him being arrested).

If you’re not worried yet, you probably should be. The potential for abuse of all of this data, especially when linked is staggering. In Germany the chaos computer club distributed the finger prints of a few politicians in the hope that it would wake them up to the potential for abuse, but identity theft is only part of the possible ways in which this could be abused.

It’s funny how 20 years ago we were all pointing our fingers at the Soviet bloc states, saying that the people are too complacent when it comes to dealing with their regimes. Now, only a little while later, here we are, so called ‘free’ Western Europe voting in one measure after another on a national or continent wide scale that limits the freedom of citizens in ways that the Soviet leaders would not have been able to foresee in their wildest dreams.

Are we really that scared? What will it take to reverse this? Is there still a way out or are we locked in?

These are questions that I would like to have an answer to.

My own passport comes up in August for renewal, I’m currently leaning to the side of becoming an outlaw and to refuse to renew it. Because there is an identification duty and because you need either a passport or an ID card according to the law when you’re over 14 (and I’m comfortably past that) that instantly makes me a criminal according to the law here.

But I believe that it is worth standing up for the principle that as long as you are not a suspect in a criminal case that you should have the right to not being treated as one, and giving my finger prints is one step too far.

We’ll see what comes of it, bad tongues will no doubt suggest that I’ve got something to hide, but that doesn’t worry me nearly as much as to see this world change further in to a real life rendition of a cross between Orwells ‘1984’ and Ira Levins ‘This Perfect Day’.