Benefits office knew for years it was breaking the rules: NOS

Photo: UWV

State benefits agency UWV ignored warnings it was in breach of privacy rules by secretly using cookies to check up on claimant’s whereabouts as early as 2020, broadcaster NOS reports.

The practice, which was stopped at the beginning of this year, was revealed following an investigation by the broadcaster and current affairs programme Nieuwsuur.

NOS found the organisation’s own privacy protection officer had warned about the use of the cookies, in particular its failure to give site visitors the right to refuse them.

The UWV denied it had placed the cookies without the site users’ knowledge and pleaded the “complexity” of the case to explain why it took so long to remedy the situation.


The UWV used the cookies to record the IP addresses of people who visited and to see if they were abroad at the time, given that IP addresses are linked to location. The agency also placed secret cookies to follow users and keep track of how long they were online. 

This information was then fed into an algorithm that analysed if there was a risk the benefit claimant was abroad. Those with a high score were investigated more closely.

In total, 3,600 investigations were opened and in 460 cases, “benefits were amended”, NOS said last month.

Union FNV is now considering taking the agency to court to stop it from using algorithms to detect fraud altogether.

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