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One year after Snowden

Wat al jarenlang werd bevreesd, bleek het afgelopen jaar ook bewaarheid: onze digitale communicatie wordt op grote schaal afgeluisterd, opgeslagen en geanalyseerd door een groot aantal “democratische rechtsstaten”. Samen met bijna dertig collega-organisaties heeft Bits of Freedom in kaart gebracht wat er sindsdien is veranderd. Als er al iets is veranderd.

In Nederland is het in ieder geval bedroevend slecht gesteld:

As everywhere, the first Snowden revelations made headlines in the Dutch media. However, most of these reports did little more than translating the output of the original story. After a couple of months, as the audience became bored with the same story time after time, the amount of attention declined considerably. The revelations on Dutch involvement were highly anticipated and turned out to be somewhat of an anti-climax. As a result, attention was quickly lost. In the end, the most critical and extensive analyses were made by spare-time bloggers.

The Dutch government response to the revelations has been extremely weak: multi-interpretable answers, systematic denial and avoiding to take a strong position. Whenever possible, the government pointed towards Europe for a response. The reason for this lack of outrage is evident: the Dutch intelligence services have close ties to their American and British counterparts. The debates with the parliament have been fierce, but rarely profound. A report of the intelligence services oversight committee on the use and sharing of information by the intelligence services has been critical on the trust-based cooperation with the NSA, amongst other things.

By coincidence, the Snowden revelations coincide with a review of the Dutch law governing the intelligence services. The most striking part of this review is the introduction of a massive and untargeted wiretap competency, similar to the powers of both the NSA and the GCHQ that were highlighted by Snowden. British intelligence is quoted in one of the leaked documents stating “the Dutch have some legislative issues they need to work through before their legal environment would allow them to operate in the way that GCHQ does” and that GCHQ is “providing legal advice.” The proposal for the new powers is, at best, delayed by the Snowden revelations, but it’s definitely not off the table.

The most notable event outside of politics and media is the law suit against the Dutch State, brought forward by a coalition of NGO’s and citizens. The coalition demands a prohibition of the use of data of others by Dutch intelligence services if this data has not verifiably been obtained in accordance with Dutch law. Their proceedings made clear the government misinformed the general public and the parliament, almost leading to the resignation of the responsible minister.

Possibly the best result of Snowden’s revelations: citizens and companies are slowly realizing they should turn to themselves for protection against government snoops. There is a considerable rise of crypto parties, where research journalists and ordinary citizens are taught how to protect their online communication.

Het volledige rapport wordt waarschijnlijk begin volgende week gepubliceerd. Bij Nieuwsuur hebben we een toelichting gegeven: de Nederlandse regering lijkt zich drukker te maken over het vertrouwen van de Amerikanen dan het vertrouwen van de eigen burgers.


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