Update 23 March: On Wednesday March 21st, the Dutch voted in a referendum on the new Intelligence and Security Services Act. The highly controversial law attracted a record number of voters since the Advisory Referendum Act was introduced in 2014.
With all votes counted, the results show a majority of Dutch citizens voted against the law in its current form, a clear signal that the law is in urgent need of reconsideration.
Bits of Freedom, the Dutch digital rights organization that has been fighting this law since the first draft in 2015, is pleased with the results, but not surprised.
David Korteweg, researcher for Bits of Freedom: “Since the first publication of the draft bill in 2015, it has been under continuous scrutiny. Today millions of voters have voted against the law in order to express that, in its current state, the law is inadequate. The government couldn't have received a clearer signal that the law needs to be improved.”
On 11 July 2017, the Dutch Senate passed the new Intelligence and Security Services Act. With the Senate vote, a years-long political battle came to an end: the secret services were given dragnet surveillance powers. Citizens subsequently called for a referendum, which was held on March 21st, 2018. Over the past few weeks, while campaigning intensified, the polls showed a steady move towards a vote against the law.
Since 2015, the law has faced overwhelming opposition from experts, industry, political parties, civil society and citizens. The law proved particularly controversial on five points: the dragnet-surveillance power; real-time access to databases; third-party hacking; oversight; and the sharing of unevaluated data with foreign services.
The referendum in The Netherlands is a non-binding, advisory one. However, if substantial changes aren’t made to the law, Bits of Freedom will proceed to fight the law in court.