Bits of Freedom monthly update on human rights & tech: April 2023
Read through the most interesting developments at the intersection of human rights and technology from the Netherlands. This is the fourth update in this series.
New bill for security coordinator reflects civil society concerns
In 2021, journalists uncovered that the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV) had been illegally spying on people. Rather than penalize the coordinator for abusing her power, the Minister of Justice and Security rewarded the NCTV with a bill expanding its capacities. Essentially, the bill proposed intelligence powers, and, if that weren’t bad enough, neglected to propose accompanying intelligence oversight.
After spotlighting these risks and the anti-democratic haste with which the minister tried to push through the bill, we also contributed to mobilizing critical voices from within all stakeholder groups. And it paid off! The latest version of the text, published by the ministry this month, seems to reflect our concerns and reiterates that the NCTV is meant to coordinate intelligence gathering, not participate in surveillance itself. There’s still a bit of work to be done to make sure the text leaves no room for doubt about where the boundaries of the NCTV’s powers lie.
The Research and Documentation Center finally published its report into the effects of encryption on law enforcement. It’s an interesting read, considering not only the difficulties posed by encryption, but also the ‘benefits’, and concluding that encryption might not mean the end of effective policing, after all. (Who knew!) Finally, we were shocked to read about discriminating algorithms. being used by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in visa application processes, despite repeated warnings from the ministry’s data protection officer, who has since resigned.