The number of internet taps carried out by Dutch police rose 500% to 16,600 last year, according to new justice ministry figures.
By contrast, the number of phone taps rose just 3% to nearly 25,500 despite doubts about their usefulness. And the number of requests for information about phone calls – such as the location calls were made from – reached almost 57,000, up 10% on 2011.
The Netherlands sanctions more phone taps than any other country in the world. The figures do not include taps by the security services.
Justice minister Ivo Opstelten said the rise in internet taps was due to the increase in smart phone use. The number of taps did not reflect the number of people under investigation because many have multiple phones.
The decision to use telephone and internet taps is always taken with a great deal of care, the minister said.
Last year, the ministry’s WODC research institute said telephone taps rarely produce evidence of crimes, partly because criminals are aware they are being tapped and partly because the communication shifts to internet.
Internet privacy lobby group Bits of Freedom said the justice ministry should provide much more detailed information in order to assess the impact of the taps.
‘There is a major difference between tapping an entire Facebook profile and a tap to see which bank account is paying the bill,’ a spokesman told the Volkskrant.
Earlier this month, MPs from the ruling coalition backed demands for an inquiry into the involvement of the Dutch security services in the Prism internet tapping scandal.
The investigation will be carried out by the independent security service monitoring commission CTIVD and will also look at the implications of Prism for privacy rules and European legislation.
Home affairs minister Ronald Plasterk said earlier the AIVD and MIVD do not use Prism or similar programmes to tap into internet traffic. However, the security services do exchange information with other services and information gleaned through Prism may be part of that, he said.
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