Our Annual Report over 2019 has been published. It contains an overview of our highlights of the year, gives you insight into our financial situation, and allows you to review some of the more interesting press moments. We would love to hear your comments and feedback.
The public debate surrounding the role of technology in our society is becoming more and more mature. After years of near continuous data scandals, 2019 was marked by a growing and increasingly vocalised dissatisfaction in large parts of western Europe and North America with the biggest technology companies. "Break up big tech" became one of the spearheads of Elizabeth Warren's presidential campaign in the United States, and here in the Netherlands the House of Representatives set up a temporary committee “Digital future” tasked with understanding the "desired and undesirable developments related to digitization".
In 2019, we once again contributed to this critical trend. We proved that Facebook lied to the House of Representatives about the measures it supposedly took to prevent election manipulation, we filed an enforcement request against the real-time bidding practice of Google and the IAB (a sector organisation for digital marketing), and we published Fix the system, not the symptoms, an analysis of the unhealthy dominance of the tech giants. Of course, 2019 also saw the successful launch of Freedom Internet, a new, independent provider with freedom and civil rights in its DNA, which confirmed that people are eager for alternatives.
There was also a high-quality debate about the government’s use of data and technology. Attention to the Intelligence and Security Services Act remained considerable, the case against the Systemic Risk Assessment (SyRI) program was discussed extensively, and investigative journalist Huib Modderkolk’s wonderful "Het is oorlog maar niemand die het ziet" (There is a war going on, but no one can see it), about the secret services and cyberwarfare, became a bestseller.
The corona crisis has already turned 2020 into a very different year than expected. The constitutional state and the rule of law are under even more pressure than usual. Hard-won freedoms and rights are being curtailed, the power of government is increasing, and that of citizens is decreasing. This is all the more apparent now our movements are restricted, when we no longer have control over the sharing of our medical data, and when our whereabouts are continuously monitored. This puts the precarious balance of power between government and citizens to the test. Too much, perhaps. After all, a government with too much power cannot be controlled by its citizens or by the courts.
Thanks in part to our size, we are flexible and can move quickly, which is indispensable when it comes to addressing new developments in the context of the coronavirus. History shows that in times of crisis, people sometimes take hasty decisions with far-reaching negative consequences for our rights and freedoms, even long after the crisis is over. Bits of Freedom, therefore, is more necessary than ever.
This annual report focuses on the most important events of 2019. These are the activities we are most proud of and which have had the most impact. With the support of our donors, volunteers, friends and followers, we look forward to making 2020 another year with many highlights.
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