Jaarverslag Bits of Freedom 2020

Annual Report Bits of Freedom 2020

Vijf dingen die belangrijk zijn in onderzoek naar “effect encryptie op opsporing”

Our annual report centers last year's highlights. These are the activities we're most proud of and that had the most impact. Read the preface or click through to the full annual report.

Scott Webb


The rule of law was severely tested last year. In response to the global pandemic, the government took measures that resulted in far-reaching violations of our rights and liberties. Examples of this are our right to education, our freedom to conduct a business and our right to demonstrate. Our right to privacy was also examined and weighed. As we wrote on March 20th, restricting liberties ‘can serve a greater interest than that which the right to exercise these seeks to protect. In that sense, policy is always a balancing of interests. If done correctly, the government will do this with care and transparency.’

We also have a role to play in this. We believe it to be threefold. We must ensure that consideration is given not only to the opportunities offered by new technologies, but also to the risks that their use might entail. At the same time, we constructively engage with policy makers and politicians who have to act quickly under a tremendous amount of pressure. Finally, we inform people about the measures that are being taken and their possible courses of action.

The primary measures we occupied ourselves with last year were the contact tracing app, and the proposal to oblige telecom providers to share the location data of their customers. But that is not all that happened: healthcare providers were given easier access to medical records, the hospitality industry was forced to ask customers for their health status and contact details, and we have all become much more dependent on digital tools.

We are proud of the contribution we made to how these (proposed) measures were developed and the scrutiny they were subjected to. We did this with a constructive attitude wherever possible, and with decisive action where necessary. Sometimes we played an important role in driving the discussion and on other occasions we took on an advisory role.

Taking on the responsibility of advocating for people’s rights with regard to these measures, meant other work had to be abandoned. We would have liked to make a greater contribution to new European regulation looking at platform power, and we postponed the launch of our ‘platform literacy’ project, ‘A Crash Course in Manipulation’, until 2021. Our work on the use of data and algorithms by the government and the dangers this poses to the rule of law has also met with delay. And just like so many other organisations, our events were cancelled this year: you were sorely missed at the Big Brother Awards and the Godwin Lecture.

Our right to privacy was also examined and weighed.

Therefore, we will be starting the new year with a full calendar. But if we aim to have an impact in the years ahead, we must ensure that the core of our organisation remains strong and resilient. Therefore, we would like to conclude by drawing your attention to two important developments.

First, we want to talk about healthy working conditions. Unfortunately, burnout is all too common in our field and in the past year the importance of good employment practices and healthy working conditions became more clear than ever. The topic has been on our radar for a number of years and will receive even more attention in the years to come.

Second, we would like to provide some insight into our finances. Ever since our reestablishment just over ten years ago, obtaining structural support from individual donors has been a major focus point. Regular donors keep you on your toes (thanks to everyone who shared their concerns, criticisms and kudos with us last year) and their donations enable us to make long-term plans. 2020 was a difficult year financially for many people, of which we took note at the turn of the year. We lost considerably more donors than in any previous year. Thanks to solid financial management and the support of hundreds of new donors who joined us last year, this isn't an immediate cause for concern. However, if this trend were to continue, we may have to scale down our ambitions in the next couple of years – and that when there is so much work to be done. This, too, will be an important concern for us in the coming year.

We are proud of the contribution we made to how these (proposed) measures were developed and the scrutiny they were subjected to.

But first we would like to dwell on 2020 a bit longer. This annual report focuses on the most important events of the past year. These are the activities in which we take the greatest pride, and which have produced the greatest impact. We would like to thank everyone who has supported us – whether this is through a donation or through the contribution of time or knowledge. We look forward to making 2021 a year of many highlights, and we look forward to doing that with you.

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