The Dutch armed forces have been collecting information and data about Dutch society on a major scale since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the NRC said on Monday.
The information gathering has also focused on groups such as the ‘yellow vests’, coronavirus conspiracy theorists and people who have set fire to 5G telecom masts, the paper said.
The paper bases its claim on an analysis of the Land Information Manoeuvre Centre (LIMC), a defence ministry unit which was set up in mid March to monitor the spread of disinformation.
The paper says the armed forces had wanted for some time to experiment with information as a weapon, and seized the pandemic as the perfect opportunity, using public and semi-public resources.
The move is controversial, the paper says, because the Dutch armed forces have a limited role in the Netherlands itself and can only act if requested to do so by police, a ministry or a security service.
The ministry told the paper in a reaction that the LIMC does not look at individuals, because it is not allowed to by law, and only shares its analyses internally. It also denied claims by the NRC that one military official infiltrated an online conspiracy theorist platform.
Meanwhile, the Volkskrant published an interview on Monday with Jan-Jaap Oerlemans, new professor of security and law at Utrecht University.
In his inauguration speech, Oerlemans is highly critical of the ‘hunger for data’ shown by both the AIVD and the military security service MIVD.
In particular, legislation giving the security services powers to bulk collect data do not contain enough guarantees on privacy, he said.
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