Secret services do important work, but our freedoms are threatened if mass surveillance is allowed by intercepting our communications with a dragnet. An essential element of our free society is that the communication of innocent citizens isn’t intercepted by the secret services on a large and systemic scale if they don’t pose a threat to our national security. This principle is thrown overboard with the introduction of the new Intelligence and Security Services AcThe official text of the law (in Dutch)t, which we also call the dragnet law.
Dragnet bill adopted despite broad criticism
There has been a lot of opposition across society against untargeted interception since the first draft for a new Intelligence and Security Services Act was announced in 2015. The last few years we have fought hard against the most critical parts of the proposed law. We are of the opinion that these parts are violating the fundamental rights, such as the right to privacy, that are protecting citizens in the Netherlands.
Despite the broad opposition against the dragnet law it was adoptedOur response when the bill got adopted by Parliament in the summer of 2017 and entered into force on 1 May 2018.
Referendum: majority votes against dragnet law
The ink of the new law was barely dry when a group of students forced the government’s hand to hold a consultative referendum on this new law through a citizen’s initiative. The referendum was held on 21 March 2018 and more than six million people voted, of which a majority voted againstInformation on the outcome of the referendum the new dragnet law. This was a major victory. The message was crystal clear: voters wanted a better law.
Bits of Freedom doesn’t want to get rid of the entire law, but certain critical elements must definitely be improved. Towards the referendum we organised a campaign and explained extensively what the five major points of improvement were and why you had to vote against the dragnet law.
Government insufficiently followed up on outcome referendum
The government responded to the outcome of the referendum by proposing several ‘changes’ to the new law. Unfortunately these changes are primarily cosmetic. One part of these ‘changes’ were enacted in new policies for the secret services and the other part is included in a proposal to amend the dragnet law.
We didn’t stop after the referendum. Once the new law entered into force on 1 May 2018 we went to court in interim injunction proceedings together with a broad coalition of civil society and local IT companies. We asked the court to temporarily set aside certain controversial provisions of the new law until the proposed changes to the law have passed Parliament and the changes are final. Unfortunately the court denied our request.
What will Bits of Freedom do?
Our key concerns against parts of the new law still hold true. We are critically following the legislative process of the proposed changes to the law and the implementation of the law. We will also ensure that the evaluation of the law will be conducted on time and correctly.
But there are more ways we can challenge the new law. We don’t rule out the possibility that together with the same coalition of organisations we will go to court again (proceedings on the merits) to challenge the controversial (amended) provisions of the law.