Dutch government to press ahead with ‘Big Brother’ legislation

Protection concept: computer keyboard with Closed PadlockHome affairs minister Ronald Plasterk is to press ahead with controversial ‘Big Brother’ legislation on phone and internet tapping, despite criticism from telecom firms and privacy experts.

However, the minister told news agency ANP he did not rule out that ‘some parts may be amended’ while the bill is being processed. ‘We have to press ahead because if we don’t the security service will be unable to do their job,’ he said.

The recent incident on the Thalys high-speed train was an example of where people ask ‘do we really have a good picture of the threats’, Plasterk said. ‘This law will allow that issue to be tackled.’

The new rules will require telecom firms to record all communications routed through them which will then be collected and analysed. In effect, the security services will have access to all fixed link and internet traffic.


Plasterk insists that the minister will have to authorise all steps in the tapping process and that actual conversations cannot be listened to without official permission.

But the Dutch human rights commission says the new legislation goes too far. ‘It is a major infringement of the right to privacy and secret communications,’ the commission said last week.


Telcos KPN and Tele2 have said the new rules conflict with the right to privacy and will prove very expensive to implement.

British privacy watchdog Privacy International has described them as among the most far-reaching in the world and says they will provide a poor example for countries without strong democratic traditions.

Plasterk said at the weekend there were a lot of misunderstandings about his proposals. ‘If the legislation would allow the security services to just listen in to every Dutch person’s phone conversations, or look at their internet activities, I would be totally against it,’ he said.

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