The American National Security Agency tapped 1.8 million Dutch telephones in one month alone as part of its Boundless Informant surveillance programme, Dutch media reported on Monday.
The raw information was first published by Der Spiegel in June but has now been interpreted by Dutch technology website Tweakers following publication in Le Monde.
Between the beginning of December and beginning of January, 1.8 million Dutch phone numbers were tapped into by the NSA, recording information about number and possibly location, Tweakers said.
The numbers were compared against a database of suspect numbers and, Tweakers says, if a number was on the list, calls to and from the number were listened in to.
In Germany, 500 million numbers were picked up by the NSA and in France 70 million. Paris has now summoned the US ambassador to explain events. According to Le Monde, documents show the NSA was allegedly targeting not only terrorist suspects but politicians, business people and others.
The raw information comes from whistleblower Edward Snowden.
VVD parliamentarian Klaas Dijkhoff said the news that the US is obtaining telephone information in the Netherlands on such a broad scale is ‘disappointing’.
‘If it was the Chinese or the Russians, then no-one would be surprised,’ he is quoted as saying by Tweakers ‘But this is an ally and that makes it extra disappointing.’
The Netherlands is already the most heavily phone-tapped country in the world. The number of phone taps rose 3% to nearly 25,500 last year, according to justice ministry figures. 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 figures do not include taps by the security services.
In July, MPs from the ruling coalition backed demands for an inquiry into the involvement of the Dutch security services in the Prism internet tapping scandal.
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.